Peter Anderson - NEWS 2016
28 December 2016: Georgian Synod on Crete Council
Today (Dec. 27) the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Georgia posted the minutes relating to its meeting held on December 22. http://patriarchate.ge/geo/wmida-sinodis-sxdomis-oqmi-22/ In translating the Georgian text, the Google translation tool leaves much to be desired. It appears that the Holy Synod found that the decisions of the Crete Council were not binding on the Patriarchate of Georgia, because the principle of consensus required the participation and adoption by all of the Local Orthodox Churches and four of these Churches did not participate. However, the Holy Synod stated that the Crete Council “can be considered a milestone” with respect to a future Great and Holy Council with full participation of all of the Local Orthodox Churches. The Holy Synod also appointed a 6-member theological commission to study the Crete documents further. It appears that the response of the Georgian Patriarchate is less harsh than that expressed by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church last month. One additional sad note is the Patriarch Ilia II has been quite ill during the last few days but his condition now appears to be stable. https://ria.ru/religion/20161227/1484715226.html
After praying the Angelus before the crowd in St. Peter’s Square on December 26, Pope Francis asked that “the Lord console the dear Russian people and the families of the passengers” who were killed in the terrible plane crash on December 25 near Sochi. This was followed by 15 seconds of silent prayer by all present in the Square. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/12/26/pope_prays_for_victims_of_russian_plane_crash/1281739 The victims included 64 members of the famous Aleksandrov Ensemble of the Russian Army, previously known as the “Red Army Choir.” Pope Francis noted that the Choir had performed for Pope John Paul II in 2004 [Oct. 15] on the 26th anniversary of his pontificate. It was the Pope’s last anniversary and probably the last concert that he ever attended in his lifetime. However, it was not Pope John Paul II’s first encounter with the Red Army Choir. The Pope had invited the Red Army Choir to perform inside the apostolic palace on February 20, 1988. It was an amazing event. The media had fun commenting that 100 soldiers of the Red Army had invaded the apostolic palace. However, the great surprise, without any advanced notice, was that the Red Army Choir sang at their concert Schubert’s Ave Maria. It was a shock that a Soviet Army would sing such religious music, and the Pope was greatly moved by it. You must remember that this was several months before the April 1988 meeting between Gorbachev and members of the Holy Synod when Gorbachev had first indicated a more relaxed attitude by the Soviet government with respect to religion.
Christmas day also marked the death of Father Romano Scalfi, the founder of “Russia Cristiana” with its headquarters in Seriate, Italy. http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Father-Roman-Scalfi,-the-starets-of-the-West,-has-died-39497.html The organization was founded by Father Romano in 1957 with the primary goal of “making the West more aware of the richness of the spiritual, cultural and liturgical tradition of the Russian Orthodoxy.” http://www.russiacristiana.org/chisiamo_EN.html The organization has a publishing operation, a magazine “La Nuova Europa,” and a school of iconography. When Russia Cristiana celebrated its 50th anniversary in Moscow in 2007, Father Romano received the praise of both Catholics and Orthodox. http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=3&id=16814
The CEMES website has now posted a good English translation of the November 18 letter by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece concerning the activities of certain members of the Church of Greece in seeking to undermine the Crete Council. https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2016/12/the-trute-traslation-in-english-of.html
Lastly, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held its winter meeting today. The minutes can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4726691.html . Nothing is said in the minutes about the Crete Council. The Holy Synod did decide that the next Council of Bishops of the Russian Orthodox Church will be held from 29 November to 2 December 2017, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the enthronement of Patriarch St. Tikhon of Moscow [Nov. 21, 1917].
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
22 December 2016: Important Romanian statement regarding Crete
Today (Dec. 22), the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Romania issued an extremely important press release entitled: Communique: Any clarification regarding faith must be made in ecclesial communion, not in disunion. http://basilica.ro/en/communique-any-clarification-regarding-faith-must-be-made-in-ecclesial-communion-not-in-disunion/ This communique is so important that I have pasted the full official-English text at the end of this report. I will not attempt to summarize this relatively short communique as it really should be read in its entirety. It is another example of Romania taking a strong leadership role.
The annual diocesan assembly for Moscow was held today, and Patriarch Kirill gave his annual report. The entire text of the report can be accessed at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4720751.html .
Patriarch Kirill has sent a letter to Pope Francis congratulating him on his 80th birthday (Dec. 17). https://mospat.ru/en/2016/12/17/news140220/ The letter included the following statement: “I would like to note with joy the high degree of mutual understanding that the bilateral relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church have reached lately, including thanks to the position taken by Your Holiness. Our meeting in February in Havana will remain unforgettable for me, as it has given a new impetus to benevolent dialogue and cooperation between our two Churches for the sake of peace, justice, strengthening of moral values in society and overcoming differences among Christians.” President Putin telephoned the Pope on the Pope’s birthday. According to the Kremlin’s news report on the telephone call: “Vladimir Putin warmly congratulated the Pope on his 80th birthday and highlighted his enormous personal contribution to strengthening relations between Russia and the Vatican, which have recently reached a new level.”
From Dec. 16 to 18, the apostolic nuncio to Ukraine, Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, visited the Catholic communities in Donetsk and Luhansk. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/12/20/nuncio_to_ukraine_brings_christmas_greetings_from_pope/1280296 He also visited Metropolitan Mytrofan of Luhansk (Ukrainian Orthodox Church – Moscow Patriarchate). http://news.church.ua/2016/12/20/v-luganske-sostoyalas-vstrecha-mitropolita-mitrofana-s-apostolskim-nunciiem-rimo-katolicheskoj-cerkvi-v-ukraine-klaudio-gudzherotti/?lang=ru The nuncio told reporters that Pope Francis cannot personally come to Donbass at this time, but that the Pope has a desire to do so. https://ria.ru/religion/20161218/1483907126.html The nuncio said that the desire of the Pope is to unite people who are in disagreement and to help them find a common language.
Yesterday, Metropolitan Hilarion presented his new book, Sermon on the Mount, the second volume of a six-book series on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/12/22/news140430/ The apostolic nuncio to the Russian Federation, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, attended the presentation.
At a meeting of the Serbian Patriarchate’s episcopal council for North and South America, Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro (one of the most influential members of the Patriarchate) expressed the opinion that the Serbian Patriarchate should withdraw from the World Council of Churches, especially in view of the position taken by some Protestant denominations on issues such as female clergy and gay marriage. http://www.mitropolija.com/mitropolit-amfilohije-i-episkop-kirilo-ucestvovali-u-radu-episkopskog-savjeta-spc-za-sjevernu-i-juznu-ameriku/ The Metropolitan stated that his opinion will be submitted to the assembly of Serbian bishops for their consideration. The assembly of all of the Serbian bishops usually meets in May of each year. In 1997 the assembly of all of the Serbian bishops voted to withdraw from the WCC, but this decision was later changed after the “Thessaloniki summit” of all of the Orthodox churches relating to the WCC. See http://orthodoxinfo.com/ecumenism/artemije_thess.aspx
Lastly, I wish all of you who are celebrating the Nativity of Our Lord on December 25 a very blessed and joyous Christmas!!!
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
Please find below the position of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church about recent evolutions in Romania regarding reception of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church (Crete, 2016):
During the working session of the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church, gathered on Friday, 16 December 2016, under the chairmanship of His Beatitude Patriarch Daniel, in the Synodal Hall of the Patriarchal Residence, the Holy Synod noted with sorrow the recent evolution of negative reactions regarding the reception in Romania of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church (Crete, 2016).
The Romanian Patriarchate has stressed several times the fact that “the Council in Crete did not formulate new dogmas, but rather professed that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ”, and has constantly urged that peace and unity of the Church be retained with all responsibility, recalling the words of Saint John Chrysostom saying that “nothing provokes God’s anger more than the division of the Church! Even if we would have achieved ten thousand glorious acts, yet we who cut to pieces the fullness of the Church suffer punishment no less sore than they who mangled His body” (St John Chrysostom, Homily 11 on Ephesians, PG 62, 85).
However, we note with sorrow in our soul that, in a fanatical and harmful manner, some rebellious people misled certain clerics and faithful stating falsely and denigratingly that the Council in Crete has proclaimed ecumenism as dogma of faith, and some clergy, believing this falsehood, uncanonically interrupted the liturgical remembrance of their bishop, thus disturbing the peace and unity of the Church by their divisive attitude.
The Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church stressed that nor the Council in Crete neither some other Orthodox Synod has declared ecumenism as a dogma of faith, in the same way as no canonical Orthodox Synod has ever declared ecumenism as being “pan-heresy”. Therefore, the accusations brought by opponents of the Council in Crete are unjust, irresponsible, and harmful for the unity of the Church.
From an Orthodox point of view, lucid ecumenism does not represent a dogma of faith, but a spiritual attitude of dialogue and cooperation between Christians, instead of controversy full of confessional hate and of violent confrontation, which has been manifested for several centuries during the history of Christianity. The ecumenical movement came into being at the beginning of the 20th century, when western Christian missionaries preached the Gospel of love to non-Christian peoples of Africa and Asia, while Christians were divided themselves in many antagonistic Christian confessions, hating and contesting each other, their attitude being a negative missionary witness in front of other religions and the civil society. Although taking part in this movement of dialogue among Christians of different confessions, the Orthodox Church considered that the unity of non-Orthodox Christians divided among themselves over time can be restored only on the basis of the faith of the undivided Church of Christ, which is the Orthodox Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that we confess in the Orthodox (Nicene-Constantinopolitan) Creed.
In this sense, the Orthodox Church considers that in the dialogue with other Christians it brings exactly the witness of the One Church of Christ, from which they separated over time by deviation from Orthodox faith. Of course, no Orthodox Christian is ever obliged to carry dialogues or to cooperate with other Christians if he or she is afraid of losing the Orthodox faith. At the same time, it is unfair to consider that all Orthodox Christians who carry theological dialogues and cooperate in practical matters in society with Christians of other confessions are traitors of Orthodoxy.A peacemaker Orthodox Christian can remain faithful to Orthodoxy without becoming fanatic, if he or she confesses Orthodox faith in dialogue with other Christians, provided he or she makes no compromise.
Furthermore, the Holy Synod noted with surprise the uncanonical and aggressive attitude of certain theologians and clerics (priests and hierarchs) from two sister Orthodox Churches, who came in dioceses of the Romanian Patriarchate in order to criticise its hierarchy and to instigate some clergy and faithful to disobey the hierarchs of our Church. For this reason, the Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church has decided to inform the Primates of the sister Orthodox Churches (Moscow Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church of Greece) about the situations in which some of their priests and hierarchs carry out uncanonically aggressive and turbulent activities in the dioceses of the Romanian Patriarchate, inciting to disobedience, rebellion and separation.
The clergy, monastics and lay people involved in actions of rebellion and denigration of the Council in Crete, ignoring the fact that a Synod can be judged only by another Synod, will be called to order by peaceful dialogue and canonical explanation about the gravity of disunion and of disturbing the peace and unity of the Church. In the same manner, disciplinary administrative and canonical sanctions will be applied in order to bring to order clerics, monastics and lay people who persist in their state of rebellion and disunion, troubling the peace and unity of the Church.
It has also been recalled that if the synodal Fathers who participated in the Second Ecumenical Council (381) made 3 omissions and 10 additions or amendments to the text of the Creed formulated by the Holy Fathers of the First Ecumenical Council (325), in order to clarify and complete the initial Synodal text, all the more a future Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church can explain, nuance and develop the documents formulated and approved by the Council in Crete, in order to avoid misinterpretations that harm the peace and unity of Christ’s Church. In this regard, it is also noteworthy the decision of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church which, even though brought certain critical observations and proposed future amendments to some documents of the Council in Crete, decided: “to maintain fraternal, Eucharistic, spiritual, dogmatic and canonical communion with all local Orthodox Churches – both with those who participated in the Council in Crete and with those who did not participate”.
In conclusion, any explanation regarding the exposition of Orthodox faith must be given within ecclesial communion, not in a state of rebellion and disunion,because the Holy Spirit is, at the same time, the Spirit of Truth (cf. John 16:13) and the Spirit of fellowship or communion (cf. 2 Corinthians 13:13).
Press Office of the Romanian Patriarchate
14 December 2016: Bari - Moscow - Greece
Saint Nicholas must be pleased! December 5-6, 2016, marked the first occasion that a Patriarch of Constantinople has venerated the relics of this great saint located in the Basilica of St. Nicholas in the Italian city of Bari. Now, one week later, Metropolitan Hilarion and the Moscow Synodal Choir are at the Basilica. Last night, the Choir gave a concert at the Basilica, and today Metropolitan Hilarion celebrated the Divine Liturgy by the relics. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/12/14/news140111/ Yesterday, Metropolitan Hilarion participated in a round table in Bari relating to the interreligious dialogue and presented the new Italian translation of his book, La Chiesa ortodossa 3: Tempio, icona e musica sacra. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/12/13/news140109/
The Catholic Church in Bari justifiably receives praise for its work with the Orthodox and with helping Orthodox pilgrims coming to Bari. In 2009 a church complex in Bari was returned to the Moscow Patriarchate by the Italian government. The Catholic Church has recently provided to the Ecumenical Patriarchate a church for its liturgical use. The Romanian Patriarchate also has a church in Bari. The Centro ecumenico "P. Salvatore Manna," operated by the Dominicans in Bari, has been particularly active in promoting good relations. In 1987 Bari hosted the plenary meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches which finalized the document, “Faith, Sacraments and Unity of the Church.”
On December 10, Metropolitan Hilarion met with Pope Francis at the Vatican. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/12/10/news139967/ The Metropolitan conveyed to the Pope the best wishes of Patriarch Kirill for the Pope’s 80th birthday (Dec. 17) and presented to the Pope a gift from the Patriarch, an icon of St. Seraphim of Sarov. The next evening, the Moscow Synodal Choir and the Sistine Choir gave a joint concert at the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs in Rome. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/12/12/news139994/ It has almost become an annual event for the two choirs to sing together. On 17 December 2015 (the Pope’s 79th birthday), the two choirs sang together in the Basilica of St. John Lateran. In June 2014 the two choirs gave a joint concert in the Sistine Chapel and sang together at the papal Mass for the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul at St. Peter’s Basilica. In November 2013 they sang together at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. The two choirs also sang together in Moscow in May 2014 before Patriarch Kirill in a concert to celebrate the 5th anniversary of the Patriarch’s enthronement. The Moscow Synodal Choir (website http://mossinodhor.ru/) is closely associated with Metropolitan Hilarion and sings at his parish, Icon of the Mother of God “Joy to All the Afflicted.”
In a very important development, the Moscow Patriarchate’s Moscow and St. Petersburg Theological Academies both received state accreditation last week. http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=65457; http://spbda.ru/news/podpisan-prikaz-o-gosudarstvennoy-akkreditacii-sankt-peterburgskoy-duhovnoy-akademii/ This is the culmination of years of effort by the Patriarchate to overcome the continuing influence of the former Soviet educational system which refused to recognize theology as a science.
There continues to be signs that a papal visit to Belarus is being carefully considered. Today the new apostolic nuncio to Belarus, Archbishop Gabor Pinter, presented his credentials to President Lukashenko. The Archbishop informed journalists: "For me it is a priority -- we will work on the organization of the Pope's visit to Belarus, but I cannot say as to the timing and the program." http://www.belta.by/society/view/apostolskij-nuntsij-schitaet-prioritetnoj-zadachej-organizatsiju-vizita-papy-rimskogo-v-belarus-223370-2016/
On December 8, the Standing Holy Synod (the executive body of the Church of Greece) issued a statement concerning its meeting last week. The statement included the following: “Implementing the decision of the Holy Synod of the hierarchy [all the bishops of the Church of Greece], the Standing Holy Synod studied all of the texts submitted concerning the Holy and Great Council and will issue a communique to inform the clergy and the people of the decisions of the Synod.” http://www.amen.gr/article/i-dis-meletise-ola-ta-keimena-pou-ypevlithisan-kai-aforoun-stin-agia-kai-megali-synodo
In an interview with the Belgium weekly Tertio, Pope Francis gave an interesting answer concerning synodality. http://www.news.va/en/news/346013 I have pasted the question and the answer at the end of this newsletter.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
QUESTION – To us, it seems that you are indicating Vatican Council II for our times. You are showing us ways of renewal in the Church. The Synodal Church. … In the Synod you explained your vision of the Church of the future. Could you explain this for our readers?
POPE - The “Synodal Church”, let me take this word. The Church is born from the community, it is born from the foundation, it is born from Baptism, and it is organised around a bishop, who brings it together and gives it strength; the bishop who is the successor of the Apostles. This is the Church. But in all the world there are many bishops, many organised Churches, and there is Peter. Therefore either there is a pyramidal Church, in which what Peter says is done, or there is a synodal Church, in which Peter is Peter but he accompanies the Church, he lets her grow, he listens to her, he learns from this reality and goes about harmonising it, discerning what comes from the Church and restoring it to her. The richest experience of all this was that of the last two Synods. There all the bishops of the world were heard, during preparation; all the Churches of the world, the dioceses, worked. All this material was worked on during the first Synod, which gave its results to the Church, and then we returned a second time – the second Synod – to complete all this. And from there Amoris Laetitia emerged. It is interesting to see the rich variety of nuances, typical of the Church. It is unity in diversity. This is synodality.
Do not descend from high to low, but listen to the Churches, harmonise them, discern. And so there is a post-Synodal exhortation, which is Amoris Laetitia, which is the result of two Synods, in which all the Church worked, and which the Pope made his own. It is expressed in a harmonious way. It is interesting that all that it contains [Amoris Laetitia], in the Synod it was approved by more than two thirds of the fathers. And this is a guarantee. A synodal Church means that there is this movement from high to low, high to love. And the same in the dioceses. But there is a Latin phrase, that says that the Churches are always cum Petro et sub Petro. Peter is the guarantor of the unity of the Church. He is the guarantor.
This is the meaning. And it is necessary to progress in synodality, which is one of the things that the Orthodox have conserved. And also the Oriental Catholic Churches. It is a richness of theirs, and I recognise it in the Encyclical.
7 December 2016: Kirill - Paris; Bartholomew - Bari
Patriarch Kirill has completed his successful Dec. 3-5 visit to Paris. The highpoint was the dedication on Sunday of the new Holy Trinity Cathedral at the Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center in the heart of Paris. The entire Liturgy was televised live on KTO Télévision Catholique, which has now posted it as a video. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ps7x6K6mdkE The Patriarch met with President Francois Hollande (https://mospat.ru/en/2016/12/05/news139640/ ), Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo (https://mospat.ru/en/2016/12/04/news139558/ ), and with Cardinal André Vingt-Trois of Paris (https://mospat.ru/en/2016/12/05/news139645/ ). He gave an interview to the media at the end of his visit. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/12/06/news139682/
In October 2007, Patriarch Alexy II (the 8th anniversary of his death was observed yesterday) also visited Paris. In the Notre Dame Cathedral, filled to capacity, Patriarch Alexy spoke and an Orthodox prayer service was conducted before Our Lord’s crown of thorns brought by King Louis IX from Byzantium to Paris in the 13th century. Cardinal Vingt-Trois and other Catholic clergy were present at the service. It was a very beautiful and moving service. (You can see a KTO video of the entire 2007 service at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xTjkV5XyjqM ) However, the service caused strong criticism from conservative Orthodox in Russia who viewed it on Russian television and who accused the Patriarch Alexy of praying with the non-Orthodox. In spite of repeated statements by the Moscow Patriarchate that it was not a joint prayer service and that the Catholics were simply “present” during the Orthodox portion of the service, the accusations continued to be heard. Perhaps for this reason, Patriarch Kirill planned no activities at the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Patriarch Kirill on December 5 visited the Moscow Patriarchate’s seminary which was established in 2009 in town of Epinay-Sous-Senart, 22 kilometers southeast of Paris. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/12/06/news139662/ Father Hyacinthe Destivelle OP from the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity was also present for the seminary visit. Metropolitan Kirill, before he became patriarch, was person who originated the idea of founding this seminary, the only seminary of the Moscow Patriarchate in Western Europe. An interesting English-language article which describes this “bold experiment’ can be read at http://www.voanews.com/a/russian-orthodox-church-opens-its-first-seminary-outside-the-former-soviet-union-80643007/169737.html . The article states: “The Moscow Patriarchate has also reached out to the French Catholic Church, asking for help in finding a location to house the seminary. French bishops put the Russians in touch with elderly nuns living in Epinay-Sous-Senart, who were moving out of their convent. The nuns still come back to teach the young seminarians French.” The seminary’s excellent website (http://www.seminaria.fr/) describes the purpose of the seminary and gives a biographical sketch and photo of each of the seminary’s 22 students. A majority of the students are from Russia. According to the website, the aim of the seminary “ is to help the Moscow Patriarchate to acquire polyglot pastors, open, knowing their own tradition and heritage of Western Christians, capable of carrying a trusted dialogue with other churches and engage in social reflection undertaken by the Orthodox Church for many years.” The students acquire their actual degrees from secular or religious universities in Paris.
While Patriarch Kirill has been in Paris and now is in Zurich, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has been involved in a flurry of activities in Puglia, the portion of Italy that forms the “heel of the boot.” Although this area had strong historic ties with Greece and Byzantium, a patriarch of Constantinople had never visited the Puglia region. The CEMES website https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/ has done an excellent job of collecting the many Italian, Greek, and English articles relating to the visit. Today, the feast of St. Nicholas, the Ecumenical Patriarch is in Bari, the city which became the world’s most important shrine of St. Nicholas after his relics were brought there from Myra (Turkey) in 1087. Yesterday, the Ecumenical Patriarch was awarded the St. Nicholas Ecumenical Prize by the Apulian Theological Faculty (Facoltà Teologica Pugliese). http://www.asianews.it/news-en/For-Bartholomew,-religions-play-a-fundamental-role-in-creating-communion-between-peoples-39326.html For the occasion, Pope Francis sent a special message expressing his gratitude to Bartholomew. During the award ceremony, the Ecumenical Patriarch delivered a major address entitled, “The Adriatic and the Ionian, seas of Communion.” http://www.lastampa.it/2016/12/05/vaticaninsider/eng/news/bartholomew-delivers-lectio-magistralis-on-communion-during-historic-visit-to-bari-WdtOLfixurYVOO9IOUDWfM/pagina.html A video of the entire ceremony can see seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hR-Aoj_igQE . On December 2, the Ecumenical Patriarch received an honorary degree in archaeology from the University of Salento in Lecce. The full texts of five of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s addresses and homilies during this visit to Italy have now been posted at https://www.patriarchate.org/ .
The day before the Ecumenical Patriarch’s departure to Italy, he celebrated the feast of St. Andrew (November 30) at the Phanar. The Ecumenical Patriarchate’s greetings to the Rome delegation at the Liturgy can be read at https://www.patriarchate.org/-/greeting-by-his-all-holiness-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-to-the-delegation-of-the-church-of-rome-at-the-thronal-feast-of-the-ecumenical-patriarch?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2F (English). The Pope’s letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch for the occasion can be read at http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/11/30/pope_message_to_ecumenical_patriarch_for_feast_of_st_andrew/1275839 .
Lastly, unofficial translations of the recent decision by the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church relating to the Crete Council have been posted in English (http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/99098.htm ) and French (http://orthodoxie.com/le-saint-synode-de-leglise-orthodoxe-de-bulgarie-a-pris-position-sur-le-concile-de-crete-et-le-texte-les-relations-de-leglise-orthodoxe-avec-le-reste-du-monde-chretien/ ).
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
29 November 2016 (2): Bulgaria formally rejects Crete Council
I apologize for all the emails, but significant events continue to happen at a rapid pace.
The following is an English-language article by The Sofia Globe, reporting that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church has announced today (Tuesday) that it has formally rejected the Crete Council and its conclusions. http://sofiaglobe.com/2016/11/29/bulgarian-orthodox-church-formally-rejects-pan-orthodox-council/
The actual decision of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is available in Bulgarian at its official website. http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=220554 The only detailed analysis in the Holy Synod’s decision relates to the document on relations to the rest of the Christian world. With respect to other documents, the decision states: “Careful examination of the documents adopted by the Council on the island of Crete leads us to the conclusion that some of them contain inconsistencies with the teaching of the Orthodox Church, with the dogmatic and canonical tradition of the Church, and with the spirit and letter of the Ecumenical and Local Councils.” It then adds, “The documents adopted by the Council on the island of Crete are subject to further theological discussion with a view of righting, editing, correction or replacement with other (new documents) in the spirit and tradition of the Church.” The decision is careful to state that differences between the Local Churches do not affect the unity of the Orthodox Church as a whole. There are also some softer tones in the decision: “However, we respect and appreciate the efforts of all the organizers and participants in its conduct [Crete Council].”
The decision by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is not a surprise. Although many will be disappointed with the Holy Synod’s decision, the good news is that it appears that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church is not retreating into complete isolation, but appears to be willing to continue a dialogue on the documents.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
29 November 2016 (1): Did Athens approve Crete?
Today, the Greek website Romfea.gr issued a statement by Metropolitan Seraphim of Karystos and Skyros relating to the press release issued after the second and final day of last week’s meeting of the bishops of the Church of Greece. http://www.romfea.gr/diafora/11703-kuthiron-serafeim-auta-grafontai-gia-ton-kathisuxasmo-tou-laou Metropolitan Seraphim of Karystos and Skyros (not to confused with Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus) is the most senior bishop of the Church of Greece (bishop since 1968) but is not presently a member of the Standing Holy Synod (executive body). Metropolitan Seraphim criticizes the press release as being misleading. He states that at last week’s meeting, there was never a vote by the bishops to accept the recommendations contained in the report of Metropolitan Theologos of Serres and Nigrita relating to the Crete Council. Rather, the matter was referred to the Standing Holy Synod, which will consider the report, the interventions, minutes, and memos and prepare an address to the Christian people of the Church of Greece. In looking again at last week’s press release ( http://www.amen.gr/article/enotita-kai-sybnoia-apo-tin-ierarxia-gia-tin-agia-kai-megali-synodo), the release does not refer to a vote on the recommendations, but it does state that the concluding address by Archbishop Hieronymus, primate of the Church of Greece, was “unanimously adopted.” According to the press release, the primate’s address included approving the proposed recommendations.
Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpaktos has released a copy of his intervention at last week’s meeting. http://www.romfea.gr/ieres-mitropoleis/11662-parembasi-kai-keimeno-mitropoliti-naupaktou-stin-ierarxia (Greek); http://orthodoxie.com/declaration-du-metropolite-de-naupacte-hierothee-au-sujet-du-concile-de-crete/ (French translation). As I previously reported, he declined at the Crete Council to sign the document on relations to the rest of the Christian world. In connection with the posting of his intervention, Metropolitan Hierotheos has said nothing about the inaccuracy of last week’s press release.
The primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, Archbishop Chrysostomos, has given an interview with the US-based Greek newspaper, National Herald. https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2016/11/blog-post_25.html I was interested in his remarks about his conversation with Patriarch Kirill and the reason given by Patriarch Kirill for the decision not to attend the Crete Council. I was also interested in the comments made by Archbishop Chrysostomos about certain bishops in Cyprus who are critical of the Crete Council and its documents. It was previously reported at http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/94770.htm that five of the bishops from Cyprus refused to sign the document on relations with the rest of the Christian world. The most vocal of the five is Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol. The following is a Google translation of that part of the interview:
When asked what he [Patriarch Kirill] told you [Archbishop Chrysostomos] as to why he did not go to the Council, His Beatitude said, [Patriarch Kirill] "had some problems with his flock. I told him that I myself had a fifth column inside the [Cyprus] Synod. Some Synod members did not want but I got a majority decision of the Synod and told them that from now on you are obliged to implement the decision made by our Synod for the Great Council. And when some Synod members departed and did not sign [the Crete document], I signed for them, and when we returned to Cyprus doing a session of the Synod, I reprimanded them and told them you will not get an invitation to come to the [Cyprus] Synod if you do not learn to implement the Great Council decisions which are mandatory for me and for you, not everyone can do whatever he wants. Whoever wants to do his own thing can go home."
It has been announced that Patriarch Kirill will visit France and Switzerland, December 3-7. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=13448 This Sunday he will consecrate the Holy Trinity Cathedral at the Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center in Paris. On December 7, he will lead the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the foundation of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Auferstehungskirche (Resurrection Church) in Zürich, Switzerland. On November 30, the feast of St. Andrew, Cardinal Koch, Bishop Brian Farrell, and Msgr. Andrea Palmieri will again visit Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for the Liturgy at the Phanar. https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2016/11/blog-post_37.html
On November 26, Pope Francis presented the 2016 Ratzinger Prize to two theologians. One is Professor Ioannis Kourempeles of the Faculty of Theology of the “Aristotle” University of Thessaloniki. Professor Kourempeles is the first Orthodox theologian to receive this award. An English translation of the Pope’s remarks and a photo can be seen at https://zenit.org/articles/popes-address-to-winners-of-the-ratzinger-prize/ .
Finally, Blagovest-info.ru has posted an interesting address by Peter Humeniuk at a Moscow conference on November 23. http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=24&id=70726 Peter Humeniuk is on the staff of the Catholic charitable organization Aid to the Church in Need (Kirche in Not) and is responsible for the organization’s work in the Russian Federation. This includes support for both the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. The address focuses primarily on the work of the founder of the organization, Father Werenfried van Straaten (1913-2003) , who had a great interest in Russia and who was encouraged by Pope John Paul II to work with the Orthodox. One of the many projects financed by the organization was Orthodox chapel boats that visited remote villages on the Volga River. After the death of Father Werefried, Metropolitan German of Volgograd named one the boats “Werenfried” in honor of the priest.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
24 November 2016: Greece affirms Crete
The Greek website Amen.gr has just posted the communications from the Church of Greece with respect to the final action taken by the bishops of the Church of Greece at the end of their two-day meeting which concluded this afternoon. The following is the press release: http://www.amen.gr/article/enotita-kai-sybnoia-apo-tin-ierarxia-gia-tin-agia-kai-megali-synodo The bishops decided to approve the report and recommendations of Metropolitan Theologos of Serres and Nigrita. The complete text of this report was also released. http://www.amen.gr/article/i-eisigisi-tou-mitropoliti-serron-theologou-gia-tin-agia-kai-megali-synodo This is an extremely detailed report on the preparations for the Crete Council and the actual course of the proceedings in Crete. With respect to the proposals and counter proposals at Crete, it is the most detailed description that I have seen. At the end, the report contains recommendations as to the pastoral use of the texts of the “Crete Holy and Great Council.” The report describes in great detail the active participation of the Church of Greece in the pre-conciliar proceedings and during the Council itself. I must add a caveat. The press release and the report are all in Greek. I therefore had to use the very imperfect lens of the Google translation tool in perusing these important documents.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
23 November 2016: More on Moscow & Athens
Many have been waiting to hear whether the Moscow Patriarchate will accept the results of the Crete Council or not. On November 18, Patriarch Kirill held a meeting with a group of journalists including one from TASS. One of the questions from a journalist was “what next” after the Crete Council. On November 21, TASS posted both a Russian-language article (http://tass.ru/obschestvo/3799810 ) and an English translation of the article ( http://tass.com/society/913681) relating to Patriarch Kirill’s answer to this question. I was most interested in the following portion of the English article:
"But we honor [с уважением относимся - treat with respect] the event that took place on Crete. We certainly have our own reservations and amendments. Our Biblical-Theological Commission has certainly studied the documents adopted by the Crete Council and has prepared amendments to them," Patriarch Kirill elaborated. According to him, the next Primates’ Council [Архиерейском соборе – correct translation is “Bishops’ Council”] will study them in detail in order to be able to make its own proposals. "We consider the Crete Council to be part of the process. Today, in the absence of a whole number of churches, we should avoid dramatizing the whole thing. We are on the way to a (pan-Orthodox) Council, which is going to be convened according to all the rules and in due form and which will present commonly agreed on Orthodox documents to the world," Patriarch Kirill concluded.
On November 21, the Patriarch’s website posted what appears to be a complete transcript of all of the questions and answers during the Patriarch’s meeting with journalists. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4684647.html However, the above quotes from TASS are not there. Instead, the following appears for that part of the answer:
However, we respect the holding of the council, are carefully studying the documents adopted by it, with respect to which the Council of Bishops will eventually decide the attitude of the Church. We perceive the Crete meeting as part of the conciliar process, as a stage on the way to the Pan-Orthodox Council. [Google translation]
It is difficult to believe that the additional remarks quoted by TASS were the product of the reporter’s imagination. The TASS article has now been posted at a number of websites including http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/print98844.htm .
After reading the above, I am left with the impression that the Moscow Patriarchate will be proposing more than a few minor amendments to the Crete documents. It also appears that Moscow seeks to characterize the Crete Council as a stepping stone to the real Pan-Orthodox Council that will be held in the future. This stands in contrast to the position taken by the Romanian Patriarchate. The Romanian Patriarchate recognized Crete as a “Holy and Great Council.” Romania also noted “that the [Crete] documents can be explained, nuanced or developed by a future Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.” http://basilica.ro/en/conclusions-of-the-holy-synod-regarding-the-proceedings-and-the-decisions-of-the-holy-and-great-council-of-the-orthodox-church-crete-16-26-june-2016/ The Romanian approach seems to preclude any significant changes or reversal of positions with respect to the Crete documents.
As you recall, conservative Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus has written a letter to the bishops of the Church of Greece urging them to decide that the Crete meeting was only a part of the pre-conciliar process leading to a true council. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/11491-peiraios-oi-prosdokies-mas-apo-tin-agia-sunodo-den-ekplirothikan All of the bishops of the Church of Greece are meeting in Athens today (Wednesday) and tomorrow (Thursday) to discuss the Crete Council. The Church of Greece has now issued a press release relating to today’s deliberations. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/11609-i-ierarxia-gia-tin-agia-kai-megali-sunodo The release summarized the report of Metropolitan Theologos of Serres and Nigrita, who gave a very positive report on the “Holy and Great Council” in Crete and who made recommendations with respect to the pastoral use of the documents. This was followed by a discussion which will continue tomorrow. The address of Archbishop Hieronymus, the primate of the Church of Greece, to the bishops referred to the great spiritual importance of the Crete “Holy and Great Council.” http://www.amen.gr/article/i-prosfonisi-tou-arxiepiskopou-pros-tin-ierarxia Amen.gr reported that “satisfaction and sobriety” appeared to prevail at today’s session and there did not appear to be a mood of criticism with respect to the Crete Council. http://www.amen.gr/article/xamiloi-tonoi-stin-ierarxia-gia-tin-agia-kai-megali-synodo Presumably, we will hear tomorrow the final results of the meeting.
Yesterday, Cardinal Koch met with Patriarch Kirill in connection with the 70th birthday celebration. The following English-language report summarizes the remarks of the Patriarch and also includes the text of a letter from Pope Francis to the Patriarch. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/11/22/news138889/ You can watch a 13-minute video of the Patriarch’s remarks with Father Hyacinthe Destivelle OP translating the Patriarch’s remarks into French at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1vM3H07rXAY . As a gift, Pope Francis gave Patriarch Kirill a relic of St. Francis of Assisi. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/11/23/pope_francis_gives_patriarch_kirill_birthday_gift_of_relic_/1274273 You may recall that last September Metropolitan Hilarion had presented to the Pope a gift from the Patriarch – a relic of St. Seraphim of Sarov. There are some similarities between these two great saints, Seraphim and Francis. I was also interested in seeing that Archbishop Amvrosy of Peterhof, rector of the St. Petersburg Orthodox Theological Academy, was seated next to Metropolitan Hilarion in the meeting. Perhaps Archbishop Amvrosy was there to discuss academic contracts and activities between the two churches. The Patriarch in his remarks referred to a joint concert of the Sretensky Monastery Choir, the Synodal Choir of the Russian Orthodox Church, and the Choir of the Sistine Chapel that will take place at the Basilica of St Mary of the Angels and the Martyrs in Rome on December 11.
Peter Anderson, USA
22 November 2016: Moscow & Athens
It is difficult to imagine a Liturgy more splendid (except in heaven) than the Liturgy celebrated yesterday (Sunday) in Moscow’s Christ the Savior Cathedral on the occasion of the 70th birthday of Patriarch Kirill. You may watch a video of all of it at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eqmetcn1YZk. All of the Local Orthodox Churches were represented at the Liturgy including eight primates. Certainly, such a celebration is not required for a 70th birthday. For example, there was no such gathering of primates at the 70th birthday of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in 2010. However, the celebration of the birthday of Patriarch Kirill was an opportunity for the entire Orthodox Church to come together after the division caused by four of the Local Orthodox Churches, including Moscow, not participating in the Crete Council. It was an opportunity for the other primates to express to Patriarch Kirill that we are still one. Patriarch Kirill, for his part, indicated that he harbors no bitter feelings that the other ten Local Orthodox Churches participated in the Council without Moscow. In his address in the Cathedral’s hall of church councils following the Liturgy, Patriarch Kirill stated: “ I am convinced that all did the right thing - those who went to the Council and those who abstained from participating in it.” He added:
The story continues, and we must move forward by strengthening our unity and oneness of mind. Giving thanks to the Merciful God, the Orthodox Church, in spite of the differences arising from time to time, is still united. And the fact that here today there are my beloved fellow primates and delegations of all the autocephalous Orthodox Churches and that we partake of one Chalice and are one body in Christ (Romans 12: 5.) is striking proof of this unity.
Certainly this is good news. The Patriarch’s entire address can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4691223.html .
The patriarch’s address in the hall was interrupted by applause on two occasions. (See beginning 20:35 on the video of the address, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PYQjr6hcpc0 ) On the first occasion, he thanked Metropolitan Onufry, the head of the UOC-MP, “for his courage and firmness in defending holy Orthodoxy and for the preservation of canonical unity of the Church.” http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=65223 The second applause was when the Patriarch stated: “We will never agree to a change of the holy canonical borders of our Church because Kiev is the spiritual cradle of Holy Russia, like Mtskheta for Georgia or Kosovo for Serbia.” http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=13431 There has been some speculation that the Patriarch Kirill’s strong statement may have been motivated in part by a meeting on Saturday between the head of the Ukrainian parliament and the Ecumenical Patriarch. According to the speaker of the Rada, Andriy Paruby, the meeting lasted for two hours and included the subject of autocephaly for the Ukrainian Church. http://rada.gov.ua/news/Top-novyna/137624.html However, Patriarch Kirill had very kinds words for the Ecumenical Patriarch after the end of the Liturgy and also at the end of his subsequent address in the hall. The Ecumenical Patriarch also sent a very warm congratulatory letter to Patriarch Kirill. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/11/20/news138577/ The letter was publically read by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) at the conclusion of the Liturgy.
I am sure that many are waiting to hear the results of the extraordinary meeting of the bishops of the Church of Greece which begins Wednesday in Athens and which will discuss the actions of its delegation at the Crete Council. With respect to the extraordinary meeting, the Greek website Romfea.gr reports that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has sent a letter to Archbishop Hieronymus, the primate of the Church of Greece, urging him to safeguard the decisions made by the Crete Council. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/11515-bartholomaios-se-ieronumo-perifrouriste-tis-apofaseis-tis-kritis The letter urges the Archbishop not to be influenced by hierarchs who disagree with the Council’s decisions, naming specifically Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus and Metropolitan Ambrose of Kalavryta. The letter states that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will cease any contact with such individuals. Today, Romfea.gr reports that Metropolitan Seraphim is in Moscow as part of the delegation of the Church of Greece and will meet with Patriarch Kirill later today. http://www.romfea.gr/ekklisia-ellados/11560-ieronumos-se-mosxas-apotelei-doro-theou-oti-sas-exoume-konta-mas-stous-krisimous-autous-kairous Interfax has just posted a report that Patriarch Kirill’s meeting with the delegation of the Church of Greece has now in fact occurred. http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=65248
AsiaNews reports that Cardinal Koch, who is in Moscow for the birthday celebration, will meet with Patriarch Kirill tomorrow. http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Patriarch-Kirill-celebrated-his-70th-birthday,-to-meet-Card-Koch-tomorrow-39192.html I suspect that the Cardinal will bring congratulations to Patriarch Kirill from Pope Francis.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
19 November 2016: Critical meeting in Athens & more
On November 23-24, an “extraordinary” meeting of the full hierarchy of the Church of Greece will be held to discuss the Crete Council held last June. http://www.ecclesia.gr/greek/holysynod/holysynod.asp?id=2169&what_sub=d_typou It appears that a key issue at next week’s meeting will be the use by the Council of the term “churches” to describe non-Orthodox Christian denominations. Prior to the Crete Council, the hierarchy of the Church of Greece had voted that the phrase “Christian confessions and communities” should be used instead of “Christian Churches and Confessions” in the Council document on relations with the rest of the Christian world. The representatives of the Church of Greece at the Crete Council steadfastly adhered to this position of its hierarchy until the final hours of the Council. In order to reach a consensus at the Council on the document, the delegation of the Church of Greece (but not all of the members of its delegation) finally proposed to use instead the phrase, “the Orthodox Church acknowledges the historical name of other heterodox Christian churches and confessions not in communion with it.” This proposal by the delegation of the Church of Greece was accepted by the other participating Local Orthodox Churches, and a consensus was therefore reached on the document at the Council. http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/94908.htm In anticipation of the meeting next week, Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus, the most vocal conservative hierarch in Greece, has written a letter to the Greek hierarchy challenging the compromise made by the delegation at Crete. He states that the delegation of the Church of Greece “overstepped the limits of its discretion and failed expectations with respect to the mandate received from our sacred body.” http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/11491-peiraios-oi-prosdokies-mas-apo-tin-agia-sunodo-den-ekplirothikan Seraphim describes other alleged errors in the Council documents as well. At the end of his letter to his fellow bishops, he proposes that the Crete Council be considered only a part of the pre-conciliar process and that a true Holy Council should be held in the future to correct the errors.
Today the Greek website Amen.gr has posted an article by the well-known member of the delegation of the Church of Greece, Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia. http://www.amen.gr/article/i-xrisi-tou-orou-ekklisia-ekklisiai-sto-keimeno-sxeseis-tis-orthodoksis-ekklisias-pros-ton-loipon-xristianikon-kosmon-tis-agias-kai-megalis-synodou-tis-orthodoksis-ekklisias He refers to “a concerted effort” being recently made by certain clerical and lay groups to weaken or cancel the work of the Crete Council. He then proceeds to give a scholarly analysis justifying the use in the Crete document of the term “church” with respect to the non-Orthodox. We should know next week whether the conservatives are successful in their challenge of the actions taken by the Greek delegation at Crete in deviating from the position previously determined by the full hierarchy.
Today the Patriarchate of Alexandria posted the official English translation of its report on its Synod session held last Wednesday. http://www.patriarchateofalexandria.com/index.php?module=news&action=details&id=1207 The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Alexandria praised the Crete Council in very positive terms. However, the Synod regretted the failure of the Council to give greater recognition to the validity of certain “deviations” needed in the Patriarchate’s missionary work on the African continent. The report also contains the following statement which has already drawn considerable attention on the Internet: Regarding the issue of the institution of Deaconesses [in the missionary field], it was decided to revive this and a tripartite committee of Hierarchs was appointed for a detailed consideration of the subject. Although the statement is not totally clear, I believe that this refers to reviving “the issue” as opposed to reviving “the institution of Deaconesses.” Thus, it was resolved that a committee would consider the issue further.
Yesterday, the Italian Catholic newspaper Avvenire published a long interview with Pope Francis. https://www.avvenire.it/papa/pagine/giubileo-ecumenismo-concilio-intervista-esclusiva-del-papa-ad-avvenire You can use the Google translation tool to translate the Italian. There is much in the interview about the Orthodox. Here are a few samples of his remarks relating to the Orthodox:
I live with much fraternity. You sense the fraternity. Jesus is in the middle. To me they are all brothers. We bless one another, a brother blesses the other. When we went to Lesbos in Greece with Patriarch Bartholomew and Hieronymos to meet the refugees, we felt one. We were one. One. When I went to Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar in Istanbul for the feast of St Andrew, it was for me a big feast (party). In Georgia I met Patriarch Ilia, who had not gone to Crete for the Orthodox Council. The spiritual harmony that I had with him was profound. I felt in front of a saint, a man of God, he took my hand, told me many beautiful things, more with gestures than words. The patriarchs are monks. You see behind a conversation that they are men of prayer. Kirill is a man of prayer, even the Coptic Patriarch Tawadros, whom I met, entered the chapel, took off his shoes, and went to pray. Patriarch Daniel of Romania a year ago gave me a book in Spanish about Saint Silouan of Mount Athos, the life of this great holy monk I had previously read in Buenos Aires: "Praying for men is shedding one’s own blood." The saints unite us within the Church by actualizing its mystery. With our Orthodox brothers we are traveling, we are brothers, we love, we worry together, come to study with us. Also Bartholomew studied here.
When we were on the island of Lesbos, we were greeting everyone together at one point and I bent down to greet a little boy. But he wasn’t interested in me, he was looking behind me. I turned around and I saw why: Bartholomew’s pockets were full of sweets and he was handing them out to the children, happy as a lark. This is who Bartholomew is -- a man who is able to bring the Great Orthodox Council forth despite the many difficulties faced, he is able to engage in high level theological conversations about theology, just as he is able to be with children. When he would come to Rome, he would stay in the room [in Casa Santa Marta] that is now mine. The only thing he reproached me for, was that he had to change rooms.
There are also other interesting remarks in the interview relating to the Orthodox, including the death of Metropolitan Nikodim.
Lastly, Pope Francis met on Thursday with the recently elected head of the Assyrian Church of the East, Mar Gewargis III. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/11/17/pope_prays_for_peace_with_head_of_assyrian_church_of_east/1272967
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
16 November 2016: Opportunity for Moscow leadership?
On Sunday, November 20, Patriarch Kirill will celebrate his 70th birthday. It will be a major gathering of the Local Orthodox Churches. The primates of the following Local Churches will be in Moscow for the occasion: Patriarch Theodoros II (Alexandria); Patriarch Theophilos III (Jerusalem); Patriarch Irinej (Serbia); Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II (Georgia); Archbishop Chrysostomos (Cyprus); Archbishop Anastasios (Albania); Metropolitan Sawa (Poland); Metropolitan Rostislav (Czech Lands and Slovakia); as well as Metropolitan Tikhon (Orthodox Church in America). There will also be delegations from the remaining Local Orthodox Churches: Constantinople, Antioch, Romania, Greece, and Bulgaria. https://ria.ru/religion/20161116/1481499244.html Thus, all of the Local Orthodox Churches will be there. It is the most significant Orthodox gathering since the Crete Council, and I do not know of any larger Orthodox gathering scheduled in the near future. Cardinal Koch (Vatican) and Catholicos – Patriarch Karekin II (Armenia) are going to the celebration as well. The celebrations will held from November 18 – 22. The major Liturgy, of course, will be held this Sunday in the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4667626.html
Archimandrite Filaret (Bulekov), deputy head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR, today (Wednesday) told the Russian news agency RIA Novesti that Patriarch Kirill will ask the primates for their assessments and experiences relating to the Crete Council. He stated: "I think it is important that His Holiness the Patriarch will be able to hear the views of the heads and representatives of the Churches that participated in the Council, during the time of their stay here in Moscow. His Holiness the Patriarch will take into account their personal opinions on this Council, which will be expressed in conversations with him." https://ria.ru/religion/20161116/1481505277.html
The meetings by Patriarch Kirill with the primates and representatives of all of the Local Orthodox Churches are perhaps unique opportunities for Moscow to exercise a leadership role as to where the Orthodox world should go after the Crete Council. As is well known, Moscow chose not to participate in the Crete Council. When Moscow made the decision, a few days before the Council, not to go to Crete, it probably assumed that its absence, together with that of three other Churches, would require a postponement of the Council. This assumption was not unreasonable. However, the Council was held with the participation of ten Local Orthodox Churches, including Serbia which has a close relationship to Moscow. In the Council, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew received high marks for his leadership role. In effect, Moscow “sat on the sidelines” while this extremely important event was occurring. If Moscow wishes to exercise a leadership role in the future, it must “get back in the game.” As I recently reported, Romania has now proposed a future council with the right to edit the Crete documents. Romania is the first to provide a constructive suggestion as to what should happen after Crete and is charting a course between the traditional rivals of Constantinople and Moscow. Perhaps Moscow believes that it must “get back in the action,” and the birthday celebration in Moscow may be the opportunity.
Rather than flowers for his birthday, Patriarch Kirill has requested that donations be given to the St. Alexis Hospital in Moscow for equipment that will provide oxygen to critically ill patients. https://ria.ru/religion/20161116/1481504726.html This 220-bed hospital is operated by the Moscow Patriarchate. http://pravbolnitsa.ru/
Lastly, I reported recently on the many excellent articles relating to the Crete Council and subsequent developments that have been posted at https://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/ . After my report, I received an email from Dr. Ioannis Lotsios, the administrator of the website, who kindly provided me with additional information. The website is an activity of Center of Ecumenical, Missiological and Environmental Studies “Metropolitan Panteleimon Papageorgiou” (CEMES). It is headquartered at the Monastery of St. Theodora in Thessaloniki, Greece. I continue to look at the website each day!
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
11 November 2016: False models of unity & more
Today Pope Francis addressed the participants of the plenary assembly of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity which is meeting at the Vatican, November 8-11. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/11/10/pope_urges_all_christians_to_journey_together_towards_unity/1271255 The assembly includes all of the hierarchs who are members of the Pontifical Council (not just those who work at the Vatican) as well as consultors to the Pontifical Council. The full text of the Pope’s address in Italian can be read at http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2016/11/10/0810/01806.html . The Zenit news agency has posted an English translation. https://zenit.org/articles/popes-address-to-pontifical-council-for-promoting-christian-unity-2/ . In his address, the Pope refers to three false models of unity. With respect to the first model, he stated that unity does not come from human efforts or ecclesiastical diplomacy, but is a gift from on high.
…Therefore, I love to repeat that unity is done walking, to remind that when we walk together, we collaborate together in the proclamation of the Gospel and in the service to the least we are already united. All the theological and ecclesiological differences that still divide Christians will only be surmounted along this way, without us knowing today how and when, but that it will happen according to what the Holy Spirit will suggest for the good of the Church.
In the second place, unity is not uniformity. The different theological, liturgical, spiritual and canonical differences, which have developed in the Christian world, when they are genuinely rooted in the Apostolic Tradition, are a richness and not a threat to the unity of the Church. To seek to do away with such diversity is to go against the Holy Spirit, who acts by enriching the community of believers with a variety of gifts. In the course of history, there have been attempts of this nature, with consequences that sometimes have caused suffering even today. If instead we allow ourselves to be guided by the Spirit, richness, variety and diversity never become conflict, because He drives us to live the variety in the communion of the Church. It is an ecumenical task to respect legitimate differences and to lead to surmount the irreconcilable differences with the unity that God requests. The continuation of such differences must not paralyze us, but push us to seek together the way to address such obstacles successfully.
Finally, unity is not absorption. Christian unity does not imply an ecumenism “in reverse,” by which some might deny their own history of faith; nor does it tolerate proselytism, which is, rather, a poison for the ecumenical path. Before seeing what separates us, we should perceive also in an essential way, the richness of what unites us, such as Sacred Scripture and the great professions of faith of the first Ecumenical Councils. By doing so, we Christians can recognize ourselves as brothers and sisters who believe in the one Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, committed together to seek the way to obey today the Word of God that wills us united. Ecumenism is true when it is able to move our attention away from ourselves, from our argumentations and formulations, to the Word of God which exacts being listened to, received and witnessed in the world. Therefore, the various Christian communities are called not to “concur,” but to collaborate….
This year’s plenary assembly is devoted to the subject, “Christian Unity: What Model of Full Communion?” Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio has done an interesting 8-minute interview of Father Robert Christian O.P., a consultor to the Pontifical Council, relating to this subject. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/11/10/christian_unity_plenary_what_model_of_full_communion_/1271343 Bishop Florentin Crihalmeanu of Cluj-Gherla (Romania) has posted a report and photos relating to the plenary assembly. http://www.eparhiaclujgherla.ro/2016/11/09/plenara-cpuc-roma-2016/
From the media, one would believe that the visit of Pope Francis to Sweden to mark the 500th anniversary of the Reformation was exclusively a Lutheran – Catholic event. However, I was pleased to see that there was also Orthodox participation. The Ecumenical Patriarchate was represented by Metropolitan Cleopas of Sweden and Scandinavia (his jurisdiction covers Sweden, Norway, Denmark, and Iceland), and by Archbishop Job of Telmessos, permanent representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the WCC. http://www.ecupatria.org/2016/11/02/roman-catholics-and-lutherans-commemorate-together-500-years-of-the-reformation/ Archbishop Job has written his own personal observations in which he considered the event to be positive from the Orthodox perspective. http://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2016/11/an-orthodox-view-on-commemoration-of.html In an interview with RIA Novesti relating to a number of different matters, Metropolitan Hilarion of the Moscow Patriarchate commented on meeting between Pope Francis and the female archbishop of the Lutheran Church of Sweden. http://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/161103a.html ; https://ria.ru/religion/20161103/1480624550.html Metropolitan Hilarion stated: “But after a whole series of events occurred in the Church of Sweden, with which we categorically cannot agree and which we [the Moscow Patriarchate] consider to be a departure from traditional Christian ecclesiology, that is, teaching about the church, and especially because of events that we consider to be a revision of moral doctrine, we have simply ceased dialogue [with the Church of Sweden]." However, he added that the Pope’s decision to meet with the Swedish archbishop was an internal matter of the Catholic Church and would not affect the Moscow Patriarchate’s relations with the Catholic Church.
One aspect of the Pope’s visit to Sweden with which all Orthodox would agree is the support given to Christians in Syria. The pope and others spoke about Syria. All funds from the ticket sales for the large ecumenical event at the Malmo Arena went to help Syrian refugees in the Middle East. http://www.malmoarena.com/en/events/event/the-joint-commemoration-together-in-hope/89/ At exactly the same time that the event in Malmo was occurring, an ecumenical prayer service for peace, intentionally timed to coincide with the Malmo event, was held in Damascus. http://www.asianews.it/news-en/United-to-Pope-Francis:-Syria%E2%80%99s-Christians-in-ecumenical-prayer--39078.html It was the first occasion that representatives of the Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant faiths had gathered together in Damascus to pray for peace.
Catholic Archbishop Stanislav Hocevar of Belgrade has been subject to strong criticism by the Serbian Patriarchate based on his comments in an interview with Belgrade publication Politika. The archbishop’s remarks are found at http://www.politika.rs/scc/clanak/366634/Katolicka-crkva-u-Srbiji-ocekuje-dolazak-pape, and the Patriarchate’s strong reaction can be read at http://www.spc.rs/sr/saopshtenje_za_javnost_svetog_arhijerejskog_sinoda. The archbishop advanced the argument that historical events in Croatia should not be the basis for depriving Serbian Catholics of a papal visit to Serbia. However, he added that Catholics were surprised that a joint Catholic – Orthodox commission was established to study complaints against Stepinac, while the Serbian Patriarchate canonized Bishop Nikolaj (Velimirović) without considering some complaints about him. [For a discussion of claims of anti-Semitism , see http://www.eastwestreport.org/34-english/e-18-1/275-bishop-nikolaj-velimirovic-and-charges-of-anti-semitism ] The Patriarchate’s response, authored by Bishop Irinej of Backa, expressed great indignation at comparing Velimirović with Stepinac. On November 4, Archbishop Hocevar issued a statement that he had no intention to compare the holiness of historical figures, but simply that the same criteria should be applied in considering history. http://www.novosti.rs/vesti/naslovna/aktuelno.69.html:633523-Hocevar-poziva-Sinod-SPC-na-dijalog The Archbishop called for a dialogue with Patriarchate’s Holy Synod. Yesterday (Nov. 9), the Patriarchate welcomed such a dialogue, but at the same time criticized remarks by Hocevar in 2014 that the Serbian Catholics are being held in bondage with respect to the Pope’s visit. http://www.spc.rs/sr/josh_jednom_o_izjavi_nadbiskupa_hochevara Yesterday’s statement by the Serbian Patriarchate concluded: “The best example of an authentic, fraternal, sincere and fruitful dialogue was given to us recently by Pope Francis and the Patriarchs Bartholomew and Kirill.”
Lastly, the St. Irenaeus Joint Orthodox-Catholic Working Group held its 13th annual meeting, November 2 - 6 at Taizé, France. A summary of the meeting and a group photo can be seen at http://www.ecupatria.org/2016/11/08/saint-irenaeus-group-met-in-taize/#more-437 . According to the report, “[t]his year’s meeting concentrated on developing the hermeneutical, historical, and systematic dimensions of primacy and synodality, with the goal of preparing a common statement, which the Irenaeus Group hopes to complete in the near future. The papers dealt with the hermeneutics of dogmas, with the period of confessionalisation (16th-18th centuries), and with authority in the Church from a systematic perspective.”
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
1 November 2016: Romanian Synod reviews Crete Council
The Greek website http://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/ continues to do a good job in collecting news and articles relating to the Crete Council and subsequent developments. Today the website posted an very interesting English-language report from the press service of the Romanian Patriarchate. http://basilica.ro/en/conclusions-of-the-holy-synod-regarding-the-proceedings-and-the-decisions-of-the-holy-and-great-council-of-the-orthodox-church-crete-16-26-june-2016/ The latter report, posted yesterday, describes the conclusions reached by Romanian Holy Synod on the decisions and proceedings of the Crete Council. The Holy Synod expresses appreciation for the “the participation and the substantial contribution of the Patriarch of Romania and of other members of the delegation of the Romanian Orthodox Church.” The Synod finds that the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church did not formulate new dogmas, new canons or liturgical changes, but rather it has professed that the Orthodox Church is the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church of Christ.” However, of greatest interest, the Holy Synod stated:
Furthermore, the Holy Synod took note that the documents can be explained, nuanced or developed by a future Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church. Their explanation and the drafting of new synodal documents on different subjects should not, however, be done under the pressure of time, but in the absence of pan-Orthodox consensus, they should be postponed and perfected until consensus is reached. [Emphasis in original]
To the best of my knowledge, Romania is now the first of the fourteen Local Orthodox Churches to propose a specific plan as to what should happen after the Crete Council. It is another example of the Romanian Patriarchate, the second largest Local Orthodox Church, exercising a leadership role and charting a course between Constantinople and Moscow. Under the proposal, the four non-participating churches are not left with the limited options of simply agreeing with a Crete document as written or not. Instead, they would have the additional option of elaborating (but not rejecting as error) the existing language. They would also have the assurance that a second council would not be held until a full consensus is reached. In other words, what happened at Crete with the four abstentions would not happen again. On the other hand, Romania’s plan would anticipated a future council including the consideration of new topics in addition to the previous topics. Romania’s Patriarch Daniel has strongly advocated in the past a practice of periodically holding pan-Orthodox councils and has even offered to host the next one. It seems to me at least that Romania’s plan might be a very practical solution and allow the Orthodox world to move forward after Crete.
In August, I sent to you a report that the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Georgia would hold a synod meeting in October to consider the Crete documents. October has now passed, and this has not occurred. It is another indication that the four non-participating Local Churches are not in a rush to approve or disapprove the Crete documents. The Romanian proposal may provide to them a third alternative.
The cultural exchanges between the Vatican and Russia are continuing at very rapid pace. The world-famous Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow has announced that a major exhibit of masterpieces from the permanent exhibition of the Vatican Museum’s Pinacoteca will be held at the Gallery from November 25 to February 19. http://www.tretyakovgallery.ru/en/calendar/root5601724/root56017246359/ “The exhibition will show the works of XII to XVIII centuries, including the paintings by Raphael, Caravaggio, Bellini, Guercino, Perugino, Poussin, Reni.” The general director of the Galley, Zelphira Tregulova, has given an interview concerning the exhibit to the Interfax news agency. http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=64924 She stated that “never has the Vatican provided an exhibition in such numbers [42 masterpieces] in any country in the world.” There will a reciprocal exhibit of great religious works from the Tretyakov that will be held at the Vatican in 2017.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
Croatia conference on min. relig http://www.spc.rs/sr/mitropolit_porfirije_neka_ovo_budutsha_pokoljenja_slobodno_zhive_stvaraju
Big Vatican exhibit in Moscow http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=64924
Greek clerics against Crete documents http://www.pravoslavie.ru/98136.html
22 October 2016: Moscow Synod & More
The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held today (Friday) its fall meeting. The official minutes of the meeting have now been posted. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4645730.html The most interesting aspect of the minutes is that there was no discussion at today’s meeting of the Crete documents. As you recall, the Holy Synod at its summer meeting instructed “the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission, upon receipt of the officially certified copies of the documents approved by the Council in Crete, to publish and to study them, taking into account where possible the reactions and comments of reverend bishops, religious educational institutions, theologians, clergy, monastics, and laity. As a result of a comprehensive study, to present the findings to the Holy Synod.” http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4561903.html We do know that the Moscow Patriarchate has in fact received the certified copies of the documents. I suspect that the Holy Synod is not in a rush to take a position on the final Crete documents and that it may be some time before we hear anything. This is not a situation where the Moscow Patriarchate is reviewing the documents for the first time. As you recall, the Moscow Patriarchate’s Council of Bishops (a higher authority than the Holy Synod) approved all of the drafts of the documents in February 2016. The only new documents are the Encyclical and Message – neither of which appears to be controversial. With respect to the documents approved by the Council of Bishops in February, the subsequent amendments by the Crete Council were made primarily to accommodate the concerns expressed by the more conservative elements in the Orthodox Church. It is therefore difficult to imagine that the Moscow Patriarchate will have major problems with the final Crete documents. We still have not heard from Georgia, Bulgaria, or Antioch as to their positions on the final documents.
The Holy Synod also heard a report by Metropolitan Hilarion on the Chieti plenary. (Journal Entry 91) As you recall, the Moscow Patriarchate’s delegation at the plenary accepted the final Chieti document. After hearing the report, the Holy Synod resolved “[t]o approve the position of the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church at the XIV Plenary Session of the Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church.” In my opinion, that is good news. In summarizing the plenary to the Holy Synod, Metropolitan Hilarion described the position of the Moscow Patriarchate with respect to the subject of the next plenary, namely “to consider the principle of the interaction of conciliarity and primacy in the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church in the second millennium with a particular attention to the ecclesiological and canonical consequences of the union as a major obstacle to the normalization of relations between Catholics and Orthodox.” In other words, the Moscow Patriarchate is not insisting that the “union” be the sole subject of the next plenary, but rather that it must be included as an essential aspect of the discussion relating to the second millennium.
Now that Patriarch Kirill has completed his trip to London, it has been announced that he is planning a trip to Paris in early December. https://ria.ru/religion/20161019/1479553125.html Last Wednesday, the Russian Orthodox Spiritual and Cultural Center was opened in the heart of Paris, not far from the Eifel Tower. http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/97981.htm The spectacular center includes the new Holy Trinity Cathedral with its five beautiful domes. Interestingly, the construction of the golden (apparently to win the approval of the French authorities matt gold and not bright gold) domes involved a new technology. The domes were constructed with a composite fiberglass / resin, and the sections of each dome, like orange slices, were fitted together at the site “like a giant Lego.” http://www.galivel.com/fr/news/1-0-1954/communiques-de-presse/la-cathedrale-orthodoxe-est-une-prouesse-technologique People walking along the Seine River will now be able to see the golden domes and will also be able to hear the ringing of the Cathedral’s ten bells on a daily basis. http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=64582 Aside from the Cathedral, the center includes a Russian-French primary school, exhibition center, and the diocesan administration building with a concert hall and living quarters for the priests and staff of the cultural section of the Embassy of the Russian Federation. https://ria.ru/spravka/20161019/1479452788.html The center was built by the Russian government, and the land is considered part of the Russian Embassy. A two-minute video of the opening can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rSlYma2mrk . It is reported that Patriarch Kirill will dedicate the Cathedral on December 4. http://www.la-croix.com/Monde/La-Russie-inaugure-sans-Poutine-centre-orthodoxe-Paris-2016-10-19-1300797393
The second meeting of the joint commission on the role played by Archbishop Stepinac before, during, and after World War II was held in Zagreb last Monday and Tuesday. http://www.spc.rs/sr/saopshtenje_za_javnost_meshovite_komisije_hrvatske_biskupske_konferencije_srpske_pravoslavne_crkve This week’s session focused on the period from 1934 to 1941. Attendance at the session included not only the designated Serbian and Croatian hierarchs but also some experts on each side. The next meeting will be held in Novi Sad, Serbia, 13 and 14 February 2017.
Dr. Ioannis Kourempeles, a lay professor in the Theological Faculty at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, is one of two recipients of this year’s Ratzinger Prize, awarded by the Joseph Ratzinger – Benedict VI Vatican Foundation. http://www.lastampa.it/2016/10/17/vaticaninsider/eng/news/a-theologian-and-an-orthodox-professor-are-the-winners-of-the-ratzinger-prize-m4KZm3PsDZ4YLIyMFD8wqK/pagina.html Dr. Kourempeles teaches dogmatic and symbolic theology. He is the first Orthodox theologian to receive this award. The award will be presented by Pope Francis on November 26. http://www.fondazioneratzinger.va/content/fondazioneratzinger/it/news/notizie/papa-francesco-consegnera-a-inos-biffi-e-ioannis-kourempeles-il-.html In a Greek interview, Dr. Kourempeles comments on the award. http://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2016/10/xvi.html
Finally, Metropolitan Hilarion met today with the newly appointed apostolic nuncio to the Russian Federation, Archbishop Celestino Migliore. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/10/21/news137482/ Archbishop Migliore was previously the very well-regarded nuncio to Poland. With respect to their discussions relating to Ukraine, the DECR stated: “They agreed that the Churches should act as peace mediators between the conflicting sides rather than side with a particular party of the conflict.”
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
20 October 2016: The results of the London visit
Patriarch Kirill ended his visit to London yesterday (Tuesday). An English-language summary of all of the Patriarch’s activities in London is available at https://mospat.ru/en/2016/10/19/news137411/. Before departing for Moscow, the Patriarch gave a short press conference at London’s Luton Airport to Russian-speaking journalists. You may view the entire press conference at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Uk5ylt-lL8 . The Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR has now posted an English translation of the entire press conference. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/10/19/news137394/ In the Patriarch’s answers, he gives a positive assessment to both his meetings with Queen Elizabeth and Archbishop Welby. The Patriarch clarified that he has “never spoken about a holy war in Syria, but I spoke about the holy war with terrorism.” He also drew a parallel between his meeting with Pope Francis and his meeting with Archbishop Welby. In this regard he stated:
The Patriarch of Moscow had never met with the Pope of Rome before. And I felt a strong need to meet with the head of the Catholic Church primarily to discuss the issues that cause the greatest concern precisely in the way of global development.
I felt the same today in my talk with the Archbishop of Canterbury and his colleagues. There is a common concern over the developments in the world and there is the willingness to work together to make the world a better place as much as the Church can participate in this endeavor.
The meeting between the Patriarch and the Queen was truly a private one. To the best of my knowledge, no photos of the meeting have been released by anyone. There was no prior announcement as to the hour that the meeting would occur. Perhaps to emphasize that the meeting was primarily religious in character, the Archbishop Welby and the Bishop of London Richard Chartres were also present at the 30-minute meeting. The only reports of the substance of the meeting have come from the Moscow Patriarchate. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/10/18/news137380/
After the meeting with the Queen, Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion met with Archbishop Welby at Lambeth Palace and had an informal lunch. A positive description of the meeting has been posted on the Archbishop’s website. http://www.archbishopofcanterbury.org/articles.php/5794/archbishop-welcomes-patriarch-kirill-to-lambeth-palace The report of the meeting posted by the DECR can be read at https://mospat.ru/en/2016/10/18/news137389/ . Although not mentioned in the report from the Archbishop’s office, the DECR report states: Patriarch Kirill drew Archbishop Justin Welby’s attention to the Russian Orthodox Church’s concern over the liberalization of the Church of England’s teaching on church order, particularly, the ordination of women as priests and bishops and on the family and morality. Significantly, Archbishop Welby was also present for the entire Liturgy celebrated by Patriarch Kirill on Sunday morning and for the reception thereafter. This was the first occasion that Kirill and Welby had ever met.
The entire Liturgy on Sunday morning at Cathedral of the Dormition (Sourozh diocese) can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEV_hIsOUf4 . In the video five guests of honor can be seen standing on the elevated area immediately in front of the iconostasis on the left side. In the first row is Archbishop Welby and Prince Michael of Kent, representing the Queen. Prince Michael is the Queen’s cousin and has a number of strong ties to Russia. See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/theroyalfamily/8024995/Russia-hails-Prince-Michael-the-Royal-Family-member-with-Tsarist-blood-in-his-veins.html During an appropriate time in the Liturgy, a priest even asked Prince Michael to go behind the iconostasis to receive the thanks of Patriarch Kirill for his presence. In the second row is Archbishop Antonio Mennini, Emeritus Archbishop Kevin McDonald of Southwark, and Bishop Richard Chartres. As you know, Archbishop Mennini, now apostolic nuncio to the UK, was the nuncio to the Russian Federation from 2002 to 2010 and did much to improve the relations between the Vatican and Russia. Archbishop McDonald currently heads the English Catholic Bishops’ Committee for Other Faiths and worked for the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity from 1985 to 1993.
On Monday, Patriarch Kirill blessed a new headstone at the grave of Metropolitan Anthony (Bloom) (1914-2003). https://mospat.ru/en/2016/10/17/news137334/ Metropolitan Anthony was almost a legendary figure and had done so much to build the Moscow Patriarchate’s Sourozh diocese, covering Great Britain and Ireland. I will never forget my own first personal meeting with Metropolitan Anthony. In early September 1985, I was in London and was shortly flying to Moscow in an attempt to give Patriarch Pimen a copy of the Czestochowa icon of the Mother of God as a gift on his saint’s name’s day. I had received no assistance from the Moscow Patriarchate in the United States and hoped that Metropolitan Anthony could help. Without an appointment, I went to the Russian Orthodox Cathedral in Ennismore Gardens (London) and knocked at the locked doors of the church. The door was opened by the person who was obviously cleaning the church. He was wearing a black shirt and pants which ended at the knees. He was barefooted. I asked him if it was possible for me to see Metropolitan Anthony. He replied, “I am Metropolitan Anthony.” After a short conversation, he invited me to tea the next day at the church. Both my wife and I came to tea, which he served himself. He was very encouraging and give me some Moscow telephone numbers which made it possible for me to give the icon to the Patriarch. I was truly struck by the humility and kindness of Metropolitan Anthony. Sadly, his final years were marked by a great conflict in the Sourozh diocese. Last year, Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), who lives in Oxford, gave a detailed and candid interview concerning Metropolitan Anthony. http://www.pravmir.com/metropolitan-kallistos-no-other-orthodox-has-had-that-extent-of-influence-on-the-popular-level/ I found it very interesting.
On a less serious note, the Moscow Patriarchate has posted some photos of Patriarch Kirill, Metropolitan Hilarion, and Archbishop Yelisey of Sourozh taking a walk in London, almost like typical tourists, and apparently unnoticed by those passing by. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4643922.html I found that rather refreshing.
Lastly, there are from the UK two articles which relate to the Patriarch’s visit and which may be of some interest. The first is a rather positive article from the Economist. http://www.economist.com/blogs/erasmus/2016/10/patriarch-kirill-visits-london On the other hand, Christian Today, the UK’s largest online Christian news provider, has posted more negative article, “Why Patriarch Kirill Is Really Consecrating Cathedrals In London And Paris.”
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
14 October 2016: Kirill to meet Queen Elizabeth & more news
Metropolitan Hilarion confirmed today that Patriarch Kirill will meet with Queen Elizabeth at Buckingham Palace during his October 15-18 visit to England. He will also visit the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at Lambeth Palace. https://ria.ru/religion_news/20161013/1479158290.html The Patriarch’s visit to the UK will be devoted to the 300th anniversary of the presence of Russian Orthodoxy in the British Isles. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/10/04/news136613/ Sadly, The Times has written an editorial opposing the meeting between the Patriarch and the Queen, apparently because of the Patriarch’s support of Putin. http://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/blood-red-carpet-s0m85090z
Interestingly, Serbian Patriarch Irinej is also in the UK at the same time. He arrived in London yesterday (Wednesday) at the invitation of Archbishop Welby and will remain until October 18. The invitation to Patriarch Irinej was made to mark the centenary of the memorable speech in St. Paul's Cathedral, made by Serbian Bishop Nikolaj (Velimirović) during the First World War.” http://www.spclondon.org/en/news/395-patriarch-irinej-visit Bishop Nikolaj, who was canonized by the Serbian Patriarchate in 2003, had an amazing life (http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/46256.htm ), and his speech at St. Paul’s in 1916 marked the first occasion that a non-Anglican had ever been invited to speak at the Cathedral. For a detailed English-language article describing today’s (Thursday’s) meeting between Archbishop Welby and Patriarch Irinej, see http://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2016/10/archbishop-welcomes-patriarch-of-serbia.html .
The English text of the Chieti document of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches is now available on a Vatican site. http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/chrstuni/ch_orthodox_docs/rc_pc_chrstuni_doc_20160921_sinodality-primacy_en.html Msgr. Paul McPartland, who is a member of both the Commission and its Coordinating Committee, has given an interesting English-language interview relating to the document. http://aleteia.org/2016/10/03/catholic-and-orthodox-find-common-ground-in-early-church-understanding/ The Coordinating Committee will meet next year to discuss the Commission’s future topic. With respect to this, Msgr. McPartlan stated in part: “The Chieti document says that we must now build upon that common basis from the first millennium, but the Church’s life continues, there has been a second millennium, in which there were developments, good and not so good, on both sides. So we need somehow to address the second millennium. The Orthodox, and especially the Russian Orthodox, very much want to address the question of uniatism. The theological dialogue already produced an agreed statement on that important matter in 1993. There may well be more work we need to do on that. But the precise context in which to do that work has yet to be agreed. Somehow we have to reckon with the second millennium, but I hope very much that we can do so in a positive spirit. We agree that the basis for our moving forward today is the witness and the life of the undivided Church in the first millennium, and we have clarified some important points from the first millennium in the new document. We mustn’t get too bogged down in the second millennium, which is a very complex era.” Previously, Metropolitan Hilarion gave an interview relating in part to the future topic. He stated in part: The next theme has not been chosen, it was decided to leave the question for further consideration of the Coordination Committee of the Joint Commission, its session will be held in 2017. But we insisted and will insist on the necessity to discuss the theme of canonical and ecclesiastic consequences of the Uniatism. We are not ready to discuss other topics when aggressive anti-Orthodox campaign of Ukrainian Greek-Catholic leaders is continued. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=interview&div=108
Congratulations are in order to Archbishop Joseph W. Tobin, C.Ss.R., of Indianapolis USA, who is a member of the International Joint Commission. On October 9, he was named by Pope Francis a cardinal. http://www.archindy.org/archbishop/statement-cardinal.html Archbishop Tobin has also served as the Co-Chairman of the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation since June 2013. Bishop Kevin Farrell of Dallas, the brother of Bishop Brian Farrell at Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, was also named a cardinal. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/08/17/vatican_radio_interviews_bishop_farrell_on__vatican_position/1251994 Bishop Kevin Farrell was recently appointed as the head of a new Vatican dicastery for laity, the family and life. Another cardinal will be an 88-year-old Albanian priest, Father Ernest Troshani Simoni, whom Pope Francis met in Albania and who suffered heroically under the brutal atheistic regime in Albania. https://cruxnow.com/ap/2016/10/09/twice-sentenced-death-albanian-priest-now-cardinal/
This month a number of Catholic groups have visited Russia, apparently as a part of the cultural exchanges involving the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR. On October 11, Metropolitan Hilarion met with a group of professors and 250 students from schools in Rome, Milan, Naples, Turin, and Palermo, operated by the Society of Jesus. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/10/11/news136937/ The same day Metropolitan Hilarion met with a large group of Catholic priests and seminarians from Cologne. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/10/12/news136968/ A Catholic boys choir from Paris, Les Petits Chanteurs à la Croix de Bois, will be singing in St. Petersburg from 19-24 October. https://ria.ru/religion_news/20161011/1478958243.html This article mentions that Father Hyacinthe Destivelle OP of the Pontifical Council was a member of this Paris choir in his childhood! As I previously reported, a “summer institute,” attended by ten Catholic priests and coordinated by Father Hyacinthe Destivelle, was held in Russia in early September. The Russian religious website Blagovest – Info, has done a very interesting interview of Miguel Palacio (head of training for the Saints Cyrill and Methodius Graduate School and also the Patriarch’s translator at Havana) concerning this year’s institute. http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=5&id=69942
Lastly, Pope Francis and Pope Emeritus Benedict have written beautiful tributes to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in his new biography authored by Father John Chryssavgis. http://www.osservatoreromano.va/en/news/common-path (preface by Pope Francis); http://www.osservatoreromano.va/en/news/travel-companions?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter (reflection by Pope Emeritus Benedict).
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
7 October 2016: Ilia & Francis - "gestures of friendship"
Yesterday (Wednesday), Pope Francis at his general audience reflected on his recently completed trip to Georgia and Azerbaijan. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/audiences/2016/documents/papa-francesco_20161005_udienza-generale.html The Pope stated that “Patriarch Ilia’s presence at the airport upon my arrival was a very important sign, as well as our visit to the Patriarchal Cathedral and our meeting, which was very moving.” During the Pope’s return flight to Rome from Baku, the Pope told journalists about the profound impression that Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia II had left on the Pope: “[H]e is a man of God. This man has moved me. I many times have found that I left with a heart moved and full of the sensitivity from having found a man of God, truly a man of God.” http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/full-text-pope-francis-in-flight-press-conference-from-azerbaijan-24352/ (English translation of the entire inflight press conference). The well-known Italian journalist on Vatican affairs, Andrea Tornielli, posted an article yesterday on the Pope’s perspective “which focuses on the search for Christian unity through fraternal gestures.” http://www.lastampa.it/2016/10/05/vaticaninsider/eng/the-vatican/ecumenism-and-interreligious-dialogue-francis-and-the-other-popes-M4SJ4kJ36GQLoJRAEPv5IN/pagina.html Tornielli states: “The Georgian Church is among the least ecumenical. And yet the Pope’s four meetings with Patriarch Ilia II were marked by friendship, warmth and genuine fraternity, they were not just for show.”
In my opinion, the gestures made by both Pope Francis and Patriarch Ilia at the four meetings were quite remarkable. The first meeting was at the arrival of Pope Francis at Tbilisi International Airport on Friday, September 30. Protocol certainly did not require that Patriarch Ilia personally go to the airport to welcome Pope Francis on his arrival. For example, I do not believe that a pope has ever personally gone to Leonardo da Vinci or Ciampino airports to welcome a visitor, regardless of the importance of the visitor. Ilia’s presence at the airport is even more significant in that the Patriarch is subject to substantial physical limitations, caused apparently by Parkinson’s disease, and the trip to the airport was probably not easy for him. A video of the entire arrival ceremony can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhsNiwfqyzQ At 21:45 in the video, you can see the Pope and the Patriarch exchanging the triple kiss. The Pope then engaged in the surprising but moving gesture of taking the Patriarch’s panagia (the medallion with the image of the Mother of God) and kissing it.
Later on Friday, Pope Francis had a private meeting with Patriarch Ilia at the Patriarch’s residence. After the private meeting, the two went to the residence’s audience hall for a public meeting before the members of the Holy Synod and other dignitaries. The entire public meeting can be viewed with English commentary by Vatican Radio at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eGH4K-lu34E . In the video at 9:50, the Patriarch and the Pope entered the hall side-by-side with the Pope holding the Patriarch’s right hand to support him. Before the addresses by the Patriarch and the Pope, both listened silently and prayerfully to a beautiful hymn to the Mother of God composed by the Patriarch himself. (13:50) The Patriarch then made some extemporaneous remarks in which he refers to the Pope as “beloved brother in Christ.” (15:20) http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=13305 (Russian news report noting these words). The full text of the Patriarch’s subsequent prepared remarks can be read at http://patriarchate.ge/geo/uwmindesisa-da-unetaresis-sruliad-saqartvelos/ (use the Google translating tool to translate the Georgian). An English translation of the complete text of the Pope’s remarks is at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2016/september/documents/papa-francesco_20160930_georgia-patriarca-tbilisi.html . Beautiful gifts were exchanged, and both the Pope and the Patriarch showed great appreciation for the gift each received. At 56:20 in the video, tea is brought to both, and the Patriarch raises his cup with the toast, “May God bless the Catholic Church of Rome.” Then at 59:40 both hierarchs listened to another beautiful hymn dedicated to the Mother of God and composed by the Patriarch. (I personally think that the Mother of God must have played a role this meeting!) At the end of the meeting (1:05:30), Patriarch Ilia stated: “This is truly an historic moment for us. We are convinced that with your visit here our relations will be strengthen between our Churches and between our nations. Today we exchanged words that we will pray for each other.” However, I personally believe that mere words do not capture the essence of this meeting – it can only really be understood by watching the faces and gestures of these two men.
On Saturday evening, the Pope met Patriarch Ilia for the third time. The meeting occurred at the spiritual center of Georgia, the patriarchal Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta. A video of the entire meeting can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KQNavvL0RD8 with an English commentary by Vatican Radio. When the Pope emerged from his vehicle in front of the cathedral, he was immediately greeted by Patriarch Ilia, and the two again exchanged the triple kiss (8:10). The two then entered the cathedral with the Pope again supporting the Patriarch by holding his hand. The Patriarch’s prepared remarks inside the cathedral (12:48) can be read at http://patriarchate.ge/geo/catholicos-patriarch-of-all-georgia/ (official English translation). After concluding his prepared remarks (24:20), the Patriarch said: “I would like to express to you my deep admiration and brotherly love towards you, Holy Father.” After the two exchanged private words, the Pope delivered his prepared remarks. The official English translation of the Pope’s remarks can be read at http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2016/october/documents/papa-francesco_20161001_georgia-cattedrale.html . Referring to the undivided tunic of Christ which is kept in the Cathedral, the Pope stated that the holy tunic “exhorts us to feel deep pain over the historical divisions which have arisen among Christians” and urges “us to sincere charity and to mutual understanding, to bind up wounds, with a spirit of pure Christian fraternity.”
In the fourth and final meeting, Patriarch Ilia traveled to the Tbilisi airport to say farewell to Pope Francis, even though the Pope’s departure to Baku occurred at the very early hour of 8:10 a.m. http://agenda.ge/news/66597/eng This gesture is perhaps even more unexpectedl than the personally meeting of the Pope on his arrival.
In addition to the remarkable “fraternal gestures” between these two church leaders, I was also amazed by the coverage given to the visit by the official website of the Georgian Patriarchate. Today (Thursday) and for the last few days, the home page of the Patriarchate, www.patriarchate.ge, is dominated by a large photo of Pope Francis. The home page also contains links to Georgian translations of the full texts of addresses of Pope Francis at both the patriarchal residence and at the Svetitskhoveli Cathedral. For me, it is difficult to believe that the very conservative Georgian Orthodox Church is doing this.
It is true that the Patriarchate decided not to send a delegation to the Pope’s Mass at Tbilisi, that Orthodox did not line the streets for the Pope’s cavalcade, and that a few dozen protesters from the Union of Orthodox Parents appeared at most of the papal events. All of this, in my opinion, means very little compared to the fraternal love so visibly demonstrated by the Pope and the Patriarch towards each other. Patriarch Ilia, who has been primate of the Georgian Church since 1977 (yes, for almost 40 years!), is the most beloved and revered public figure in Georgia. According a 2015 poll, he has the highest approval rating of any public figure in Georgia – 87 percent. http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/92805.htm I believe that the example of fraternal love set by the beloved Patriarch in his meetings with the Pope will mean much more in the long run than these relatively minor negative events.
In addition to the meetings with Patriarch Ilia, an answer made by Pope to a question from a Catholic in Tbilisi is also important. http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2016/october/documents/papa-francesco_20161001_georgia-sacerdoti-religiosi.html The Pope stated:
[T]he problem of ecumenism. Never fight! Let the theologians study the abstract realities of theology. But what should I do with a friend, neighbor, an Orthodox person? Be open, be a friend. “But should I make efforts to convert him or her?” There is a very grave sin against ecumenism: proselytism. We should never proselytize the Orthodox! They are our brothers and sisters, disciples of Jesus Christ. Due to historical circumstances, which are so complex, we are where we are today. Both they and we believe in the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and we believe in the Holy Mother of God. “And so what should I do?” Do not condemn. No. I must not do this. Friendship, walking together, praying for one another. Praying and carrying out works of charity together, when this is possible. This is ecumenism. But never condemn a brother or a sister, never refrain from greeting an Orthodox brother or sister because they are Orthodox.
Lastly, the Pope had an important Russian Orthodox contact in Baku, Azerbaijan. In connection with an interreligious meeting in Baku, Pope Francis had a very warm meeting with Archbishop Alexander (Ischein) of Baku and Azerbaijan (Moscow Patriarchate). You can see their meeting at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G_AIYGCAECU (beginning at 53:05).
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
24 September 2016: Chieti document - full text
The full English text of the Chieti document, SYNODALITY AND PRIMACY DURING THE FIRST MILLENNIUM: TOWARDS A COMMON UNDERSTANDING IN SERVICE TO THE UNITY OF THE CHURCH, can now be read at http://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/2016/09/synodality-and-primacy-during-first.html . This website (http://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/), which was originally established for the Crete Council, had done a wonderful job of continuing to cover post-Crete developments. I believe that the website is the work of Ioannis Lotsios of the Theology Department of Aristotele University of Thessaloniki. As far as I know, this website is the first to publish the complete text.
The English communique from the Commission can be read now at http://www.amen.gr/article/to-episimo-anakoinothen-gia-to-dialogo-orthodokson-kai-romaiokatholikon .
The article by the DECR relating to the plenary and the position of the Moscow Patriarchate with respect to the topic of the next plenary, previously only available in Russian, is now available in English. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/09/22/news135848/
I will be gone for about two weeks so I will not be giving you immediate coverage of the Pope’s visit to Georgia at the end of this month. However, I am sure you can get the latest news on the visit at Vatican Radio, http://en.radiovaticana.va/.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
23 September 2016: A little more on the Chieti plenary
I have not yet seen the official communique or the final document of the Chieti plenary. However, the website of the Romanian Patriarchate has published a very brief summary of the final document based on comments by Fr. Dr. Patriciu Vlaicu, one of the two Romanian representatives at the Chieti plenary. http://basilica.ro/intrunirea-comisiei-mixte-de-dialog-teologic-ortodox-catolic-la-final/ (For information about Father Patriciu, see his website http://www.patriciuvlaicu.net/ ) The article includes the following: “The text explicitly states that the Bishop of Rome did not exercise canonical authority over the churches of the East. The Orthodox Church of Georgia disagreed with some paragraphs, but agreed with the publication of the document.”
Over 250 excellent photographs of the plenary, apparently taken by the official photographer from the Chieti Archdiocese, have now been posted by Amen.gr. http://www.amen.gr/article/eikones-apo-to-dialogo-orthodokson-kai-romaiokatholikon-sto-chieti
Vatican Insider has posted a very informative article about the plenary at http://www.lastampa.it/2016/09/22/vaticaninsider/eng/world-news/orthodox-and-catholics-agree-on-document-on-primacy-and-synodality-38rd8bTllhZ1QyPrPHN3rJ/pagina.html The article contains praise of Archbishop Job of Telmessos, the new Orthodox co-president of the Commission. It states: “After some initial resistance from some Orthodox delegates – reported by blogs with connections to Greek Orthodox circles [Romfea.gr] – his young successor of Ukrainian descent [Archbishop Job] was appreciated by all because of the discreet way in which he exercised his co-presidency.”
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
20 September 2016: Bartholomew & Francis at Assisi
The Ecumenical Prayer and the Concluding Ceremony of the World Day for Peace at Assisi, with the theme Thirst for Peace, has just ended. You may watch it all, with excellent English translation and commentary by Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio, at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oQ7qFdidB8s . The ecumenical prayer service of the Christian participants begins at 13:00 on the video. For the concluding ceremony, the address of the Ecumenical Patriarch begins at 1:42:40, and the Pope’s address begins at 2:05:30. Beginning at 2:29:00, the religious representatives, in a touching symbol, give to representatives of the children of the world copies of the meeting’s appeal for peace. There is one “sound bite” in the Pope’s message that especially caught my attention: “Peace alone, not war, is holy.”
Yesterday and today, there were an amazing number of excellent panels and forums. You can access the program, including the texts of many of the addresses, at http://www.santegidio.org/pageID/11712/langID/en/Assisi-2016--Thirst-for-Peace.html. In my opinion, the most interesting panel was “Bartholomew: 25 Years at the Service of Christians and the World.” The speakers included Cardinal Kasper and Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury. The Ecumenical Patriarch was also present. The text of Cardinal Kasper’s speech can be read at http://www.santegidio.org/pageID/11712/langID/de/text/1920/Rede-von-Walter-Kasper.html (German); http://www.santegidio.org/pageID/11712/langID/it/text/1920/Intervento-di-Walter-Kasper.html (Italian). The Cardinal’s speech included the following remarks concerning the Crete Council: “We have admired your patience, but also your tenacity and your skill, with which you were able to carry through the conciliar assembly in spite of great internal difficulties. From the ecumenical point of view, we had, and probably you as well, expected a little more. But nevertheless the Council against strong internal reservations expressly declared itself for participation in the ecumenical movement. At the final session on June 26, you made an express commitment to ecumenism: ‘All of us have stressed the vital importance of dialogue with other Christian churches.’ You addressed directly the observers from the other Christian churches: ‘In the name of all of our Orthodox sister churches, the heads of the autonomous Orthodox churches, and this Holy and Great Council, we ask you to convey our greetings and our love to your churches and church organizations.’ The mere fact of the Pan-Orthodox Council was a thousand-year event, which many hope may usher in a continuing conciliar process among the Orthodox churches, so that it is therefore a beginning and not the end, for dealing with the issues of today's world and of ecumenism. May the Spirit of God accompany the process of reception and its continuation.” The humble reply of the Ecumenical Patriarch can be read at http://www.santegidio.org/pageID/11712/langID/en/text/1956/Speech-of-Bartolomeo-I.html (English).
The Ecumenical Patriarch also received other honors. On Sunday, the President of Italy Sergio Mattarella awarded the Ecumenical Patriarch the title Knight of the Grand Cross, the highest honor of the Republic of Italy. http://www.amen.gr/article/o-proedros-tis-italias-apeneime-ston-oikoumeniko-patriarxi-ton-anotato-parasimo-tis-xoras On Monday, the Ecumenical Patriarch received an honorary doctorate degree from the University of Perugia. You can watch the entire ceremony relating to the conferral of the degree at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgj6HFMFGeU . The various Local Orthodox Churches were well represented at Assisi. Speakers included hierarchs from Constantinople, Romania, Serbia, Greece, Alexandria, and Albania as well as from the Oriental Churches. Although Moscow sent two metropolitans to Assisi for the 2011 meeting (see http://www.mospat.ru/en/2011/10/28/news50580/) , a decision was apparently made by Moscow not to send anyone to Assisi this year.
The Chieti plenary continues. Last weekend, Cardinal Koch stated that he was “very satisfied” with the progress of the first sessions of the plenary. http://de.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/09/19/vatikan_kardinal_koch_zuversichtlich_dialog_mit_orthodoxen/ We will probably need to wait until Thursday to know whether a consensus was reached on the document. Some photos of the Commission’s visit to Vasto last Sunday can be seen at http://www.piazzarossetti.it/it-it/notizie/57dfdfafd19970300c008331/la-visita-a-vasto-della-commissione-mista-internazionale-tra-chiesa-cattiolica-e-chiese-ortodosse . Yesterday Metropolitan Hilarion met with Cardinal Koch. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/09/20/news135807/ Aside from discussing the “positive dynamic” between Rome and Moscow, the Metropolitan expressed “his profound concern over hostile statements and actions recently made with regard to the Moscow Patriarchate and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church by leaders of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church. He also expressed the conviction that the issue of unia needs to be revisited by the Joint Commission for Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue.”
If you are interested in seeing an extremely important event in the life of the Catholic Church in Kazakhstan, you may watch the entire beatification Mass of Father Wladyslaw Bukowinski (1904-1974) at Karaganda on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IXyI-Ak3uLs The Mass was celebrated on September 11 by Cardinal Angelo Amato and many bishops and priests. Bukowinski spent many years in the Soviet gulags. I was disappointed that I did not see a representative of the Moscow Patriarchate at the Mass – perhaps one was not invited or chose not to attend. Because both Orthodox and Catholics suffered for their faith in the gulags, there should be a special mutual regard for those who suffered there. On the other hand, both Orthodox Metropolitan German of Volgograd and a Catholic bishop (presumably from Germany) participated together on September 7 in dedicating a “chapel of peace” at the military cemeteries at Rossoshka in the Volgograd Oblast. This is shown in the beginning of the video at https://www.1tv.ru/news/2016/09/07/309497-pamyatnyy_znak_chasovnya_mira_ustanovlen_na_meste_gibeli_sovetskih_i_nemetskih_soldat The chapel is located between a German cemetery which contains the mass graves of 53,240 German soldiers who fell in the battle of Stalingrad and a smaller cemetery containing the graves of Soviet soldiers.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
18 September 2016: The first days of the plenary
The 14th plenary of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches has begun. The DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate has posted a report with some photos. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/09/17/news135787/ The meeting is occurring in the Adriatic seaside resort of Francavilla al Mare, located 19 kilometers east of Chieti, Italy. All of the 14 autocephalous Local Orthodox Churches are attending the plenary except for the Bulgarian Patriarchate, which has not participated in a plenary for at least two decades. This plenary brings together three of the Local Churches (Moscow, Antioch, and Georgia) that were absent from the Crete Council with the ten Local Churches that were present at Crete.
The first working day of the plenary, Friday September 16, involved the Orthodox and Catholic sides meeting separately, as is the normal practice for the plenaries. According to the DECR report, Metropolitan Hilarion “reminded” the Orthodox participants of the need to return to the subject of the “Unia,” which had been discussed by the Commission during the period 1990 to 2000. In this regard Metropolitan Hilarion was acting consistently with the very strong attack that the DECR had made against the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church on August 1. See https://mospat.ru/en/2016/08/01/news134450/ . However, it is very important to note that on Friday, Metropolitan Hilarion did not insist on a change of the Chieti agenda which is focused on the draft document, Towards a common understanding of synodality and primacy in service to the unity of the Church, approved by the Commission’s Coordinating Committee last September.
The DECR report also states that the Orthodox side on Friday discussed the question of who should be the chairman of the Orthodox side and that Archbishop Job of Telmessos was selected. Several months ago, Archbishop Job had been appointed to this position by Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew. Without citing any sources, the Greek website has posted a story describing the alleged details of this discussion. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/10470-entasi-stin-eklogi-sumproedrou-tis-14is-sunedrias-epitropis-orthodojon-rkatholikon .
At the beginning of the plenary, Cardinal Koch, Archbishop Job, Archbishop Forte, and Metropolitan Gennadios of Sassima made short statements in the presence of the press. http://www.ecoaltomolise.net/cattolici-ortodossi-concelebrano-nella-cattedrale-chieti/ From the statements, I detect a cautious optimism that this plenary will reach agreement on the draft document. Metropolitan Gennadios stated: “We all hope that this meeting in Chieti will lead to a joint text, especially because we have not advanced beyond Ravenna [the 2007 plenary]. We hope that this meeting is set to be the decisive moment for years to come. Being here is a blessing from God.”
This morning, Sunday, the Orthodox members of the Commission celebrated the Divine Liturgy in the presence of the Catholic members at the shrine of the “Holy Face” at Manoppello. Dr. Robert Moynihan, publisher of Inside the Vatican Magazine, was present for the Liturgy. Dr. Moynihan has worked on many joint projects with Metropolitan Hilarion and has done much in the field of Orthodox – Catholic relations. Within the last few minutes, I have just received Dr. Moynihan’s email report of the Liturgy this morning. I have pasted part of his report below. Today, the Commission will also visit religious sites in Fossacesia and Vasto.
Please pray for the success of the plenary!!
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
Report of Dr. Robert Moynihan:
The Shrine of the Holy Face of Manoppello this Sunday morning was filled with bishops — Orthodox bishops — two dozen of them, chanting the Orthodox liturgy by turns in Greek, Russian, Romanian, Italian, English, and five other languages.
It was the first Orthodox liturgy ever celebrated at the Shrine of the Holy Face, making it an historic moment in the dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the 14 Orthodox Churches (Greek, Serbian, Russian, etc.)
About two dozen Catholic bishops were also present, including Archbishop Bruno Forte, the well-known theologian who is the head of the archdiocese of Chieti, about 10 miles from Manoppello, and Bishop Brian Farrell, Secretary of the Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. But these Catholic bishops were not present as celebrants of the liturgy, only as onlookers and guests.
Also present were two cardinals from the Roman Curia, Cardinal Kurt Koch of the Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, and Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Eastern Churches.
The Orthodox and Catholics bishops were all theologians participating in the official Orthodox-Catholic theological dialogue, more than 30 years old now, meeting this year for a week in Chieti to discuss the delicate issue of papal primacy and synodality as a form of Church governance.
Also present at the liturgy, which lasted for about two hours, were some 150 lay Catholics from the town of Manoppello, as well a group of lay Orthodox who live in Italy, and who actively participated in the responses to the prayers.
The Orthodox liturgy composed St. John Chrysostom in the 400s is the same Divine Liturgy that the Eastern Rite Catholic Churches celebrate. This shows that there is no doctrinal impediment for Catholics to celebrate Mass according to the Eastern Rite.
When time came for Communion, the celebrant, a Greek Orthodox bishop, told those present that, due to the present lack of unity between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, only Orthodox believers could receive Communion. So those Catholics in the church -- who were in the majority -- stayed in their pews.
I felt that this showed clearly how close we are -- we all prayed together throughout the liturgy, which we followed in a multi-language booklet -- but how far apart we remain -- we could not share in Communion.
An Orthodox parish priest who serves a small number of Orthodox in a church in Chieti, at the end of the liturgy, spoke for several minutes about his own hopes for closer Church unity in the years ahead.
Seemingly choking with tears, he asked the theologians present, who are continuing their theological dialogue this week in Chieti, to "hurry up" and resolve all outstanding theological questions dividing the Churches, in order to allow full reunion to come in the near future, and not in centuries, or millennia, or... never. It was an unexpected, powerful appeal.
After the Mass, Sister Blandine came up to me for a moment.
"Today was the answer to your prayer," she said to me, smiling knowingly.
I didn't understand.
"What prayer?" I asked.
"The one you prayed here, in front of the Holy Face," she said, indicating the Holy Face above the altar. "You don't remember?"
I shook my head.
"It was the day you came to Manoppello with Father Pfeiffer, in 2003 I think it was, 13 years ago," she said. "We stood together by the Holy Face, you and I and Father Pfeiffer, and we each prayed for a special intention. And your prayer was that Christ would help the effort to bring about Christian unity between the Catholics and the Orthodox. I heard you pray it, and I have never forgotten it. And today it came true."
"Ah," I said, still not remembering. "I appreciate you reminding me of that."
Was this liturgy in the Shrine of the Holy Face a step forward in the long road toward the reunion of the Orthodox and the Catholics?
Sister Blandine seems to think it was. So do I.
But there remains much to do...
I was in Manoppello today because our Foundation, the Urbi et Orbi Foundation, works quietly to "build bridges" of friendship between Catholics and Orthodox.
16 September 2016: Russian gift to Pope Francis
Today is the first day (perhaps the arrival day) of the plenary of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, scheduled in Chieti, Italy, September 15-22. However, there was a big surprise (at least for me). Metropolitan Hilarion stopped in Rome on the way to Chieti to meet with Pope Francis. According to the report of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR, a wonderful gift from Patriarch Kirill was presented to the Pope. The report states: The DECR chairman conveyed to the head of the Roman Catholic Church a gift from His Holiness Patriarch Kirill – a part of the relics of St. Seraphim of Sarov in a shrine made in the form of an Easter egg. The Pope of Rome was deeply moved by the precious gift and asked to convey to His Holiness the Patriarch his cordial gratitude and fraternal greeting. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/09/15/news135747/ Rome Reports has posted a short, but very nice, video of the presentation. at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1x4S7NqPyWA . Pope John Paul II in his book Crossing the Threshold of Hope (p. 18) refers to Saint Seraphim (1754 – 1833) as one of those who achieved “the fullness of prayer.” Metropolitan Hilarion also met with Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Holy See’s Secretary of State. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/09/15/news135740/ Among the topics discussed with the Cardinal was the Ukrainian situation.
Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio has done an interview of Mgr. Andrea Palmieri, undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity, concerning the Chieti (I believe pronounced “Kee EH tee”) plenary. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/09/15/catholics,_orthodox_seek_consensus_over_synodality_document/1258311 The Orthodox and Catholic members of the Commission will seek to reach agreement on a draft document entitled: Towards a common understanding of synodality and primacy in service to the unity of the Church. This document will not solved the issue of primacy between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, but it will be a positive step if agreement is reached. A French-language interview of Father Hyacinthe Destivelle OP of the Pontifical Council relating to the plenary can be heard at http://fr.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/09/15/nouvelle_session_de_la_commission_th%C3%A9ologique_catholico-orthodoxe/1258386 . The Vatican’s press release for the plenary can be read at http://www.news.va/en/news/333417 .
The Russian website Blagovest-info has done an interesting interview of Miguel Palacio, a staff member of the DECR, who serves as its Russian – Spanish translator. http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=3&id=69667 He is a familiar face, who was, for example, seated next to Patriarch Kirill in his Havana meeting with Pope Francis. Palacio is half Columbian and half Russian. With respect to his impressions of Pope Francis at Havana, Palacio states: “Pope Francis - a man of great personal charm that causes a genuine liking [sympatico] - just look at him in the eyes, talk with him…. His openness and his love to communicate to people nothing but respect and admiration, interest, and a desire to listen, without cause.”
The visit of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to Croatia, September 9-10, went well. http://www.spc.rs/sr/istorijska_poseta_carigradskog_patrijarha_hrvatskoj_0 The primary purpose of the visit was to mark the 75th anniversary of the suffering of the holy martyrs of Jasenovac, the death camp operated by the Ustaša regime from 1941 to 1945. The Serbian text (use Google translation tool) of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s address at Jasenovac was posted today at http://www.spc.rs/sr/beseda_njegove_svesvetosti_vaseljenskog_patrijarha_g_vartolomeja_u_jasenovcu_10_septembar_2016_godin The texts of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s other addresses in Croatia can be read at http://www.ec-patr.org/default.php?lang=gr (in Greek). Jasenovac, where many thousands of Serbian Orthodox and others died, has been an open wound between Serbian Orthodox and Catholic Croatians. One of the accusations by Serbs against Archbishop (later Cardinal) Stepinac is that he allegedly did nothing to stop the horrors of Jasenovac. I was very pleased to see that members of the Catholic hierarchy of Croatia were apparently invited by the Orthodox to participate in the Ecumenical Patriarch’s visit and in fact did so. http://www.ika.hr/index.php?prikaz=vijest&ID=182820 For example, Catholic bishop Ivan Šašk attended the symposium on the new martyrs, Cardinal Josip Bozanic of Zagreb attended the evening dinner hosted by the Serbian Patriarchate for Bartholomew, and Bishop Antun Škvorčević of Pozega attended the events at Jasenovac. During the visit, Orthodox Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb-Ljubljana (the hierarch of the Serbian Patriarchate responsible for Croatia and Slovenia) told the Ecumenical Patriarch said that his visit would have a far-reaching significance. The Metropolitan stated: “It seems to me that it can also affect the better understanding between the Serbs and the Croats, the Orthodox and the Catholics, and that in some sense can contribute even to the improvement of the relations between Serbia and Croatia.” http://www.spc.rs/eng/jasenovac_pakrac_10_september_2016
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
6 September 2016: Ecumenical Patriarch to visit Jasenovac
The Serbian Patriarchate announced last weekend that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be making his first visit to Croatia beginning September 9. He will first attend a conference on the subject of the “new martyrs.” “On Saturday, September 10th, 2016 His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch and His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej are going to officiate - on the occasion of the 75th Anniversary of the suffering of the Holy martyrs of Jasenovac - the Holy Hierarchal Liturgy, with the concelebration of many hierarchs and representatives of the Patriarchate of Moscow, Polish Orthodox Church and the Romanian Orthodox Church, in the church of the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist in Jasenovac.” http://www.spc.rs/eng/ecumenical_patriarchs_historical_visit_croatia Jasenovac is, of course, the terrible death camp established by the Croatian Ustase regime during World War II. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jasenovac_concentration_camp Especially because of the huge number of Orthodox Serbs (as well as many Jews and others) who died in this camp, Jasenovac has been a very painful memory that has haunted relations between Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croatians. However, it could also now be an occasion for forgiveness and reconciliation.
In doing a little research, I was pleased to see that the Catholic Church in Croatia has not ignored the horrors of Jasenovac. For example, in September 2009, Cardinal Josip Bozanić of Zagreb led a pilgrimage of his archdiocesan priests to Jasenovac. An English translation of his homily at Jasenovac can be read at http://www.ika.hr/index.php?prikaz=vijest&ID=115710. More recently, last March, four Catholic archbishops and bishops gathered at Jasenovac for a prayer-penitential service for the Year of Mercy. They were joined by many priests and Catholic faithful – some walking a considerable distance from neighboring towns and parishes. http://www.ika.hr/index.php?prikaz=vijest&ID=178437 Orthodox Bishop Jovan Ćulibrk of Pakrac-Slavonia as well as Abbess Seraphim of Jasenovac Monastery also attended the March service. Bishop Jovan is the Serbian Patriarchate’s leading expert on the events of World War II and Jasenovac and is the moderator of the conference on the new martyrs that the Ecumenical Patriarch will be attending this week. At the Catholic service in March, Bishop Jovan stated that “forgiveness is a sign that we are true Christians, we are truly transformed.” It would be wonderful if representatives of the Catholic hierarchy of Croatia could also be present at the Orthodox liturgy at Jasenovac next Saturday.
It has been confirmed that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis will meet on September 20 in Assisi for the 30th anniversary of the World Day of Prayer for Peace, co-sponsored by the Sant’Egidio Community. Aside from participating in the program, the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Pope will has a private meeting. In addition, the “president of the Sant’Egidio Community, Marco Impagliazzo, will announce the 25th anniversary of the Patriarchate of His Holiness Bartholomew I.” https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2016/09/01/160901c.html
On September 15, the plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches will open in Chieti, Italy (not far from the recent earthquake). The meeting is being hosted by the well-known Catholic theologian and member of the Commission, Archbishop Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto. The plenary was scheduled to review the draft document, “Towards a Common Understanding of Synodality and Primacy in the Church in the First Millennium,” which was approved by the Commission’s Coordinating Committee in Rome last September. https://mospat.ru/en/2015/09/18/news122803/ However, on August 1, the DECR of the Moscow Patriarchate stated that it “believes [that] it [is] an emergency task to revisit the issue of canonical and pastoral consequences of unia” at the Chieti plenary. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/08/01/news134450/ The latter topic is very similar to the topic of the 2000 plenary in Emmitsburg, Maryland USA. This plenary ended in a deadlock and a suspension of the work of the Commission for six years. I, of course, do not know what will happen at Chieti, but I am sure that many prayers are needed.
With respect to prayers for the plenary, the traditional practice has been for the Catholic members of the Commission to celebrate Mass on Saturday evening and for the Orthodox members to celebrate the Divine Liturgy on Sunday morning. These liturgies are public and are usually attended by all members of the Commission. The Archdiocese of Chieti has now announced these services. http://www.chieti.chiesacattolica.it/home_diocesi/news/00000213_Incontro_della_commmissione_mista_internazionale_fra_la_Chiesa_Cattolica_e_le_Chiese_Ortodosse.html I was very pleased to see that the Orthodox Liturgy will be held at the famous shrine (located in the Archdiocese) of the Holy Face of Manoppello. If you have not heard of this image which Pope Benedict visited in 2006 and which has received ever increasing attention by Catholics, you can read a very interesting interview (conducted last month and translated into English) of Archbishop Forte concerning this holy image. http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/an-encounter-with-the-manoppello-image-of-the-face-of-christ-95030/
In a few other developments, Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and the Media, and Catholic Archbishop Paolo Pezzi from Moscow spook together at the meeting of the Catholic organization Comunione e Liberazione at Rimini, Italy on August 23. http://www.sinfo-mp.ru/rimini.html . You can watch their entire presentation (slight over one hour) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YiEOiB04ITg.
Again this year, Father Hyacinthe Destivelle of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity led a group of clergy and laypersons, studying at pontifical universities in Rome, to Moscow to attend a “summer institute for representatives of the Roman Catholic Church.” https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/08/29/news135227/ This institute was organized by the Sts. Cyril and Methodius Institute of Post-Graduate Studies, headed by Metropolitan Hilarion. The Catholic foundation Urbi et Orbi (founded by Dr. Robert Moynihan, publisher of the Catholic magazine Inside the Vatican) together with the Russkiy Mir foundation provided financial support for this project.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
24 August 2016: Good news for Moscow Patriarchate
The Moscow Patriarchate received last Friday some very good news. President Putin has appointed Olga Yuriyevna Vasilyeva, a good friend of the Moscow Patriarchate, to the extremely important position of Minister of Education and Science. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=dujour&div=3 The Ministry is the federal executive body responsible for drafting and implementing governmental policy and legal regulation in the fields of education, science, research and development, and certain other fields. http://government.ru/en/department/33/events/ Vasilyeva has a doctorate in history and wrote her doctoral dissertation on "The Russian Orthodox Church in the Policy of the Soviet State in 1943-1948.” Metropolitan Hilarion immediately wrote to her a very warm letter of congratulations and mentioned her important contributions to the subject of church history. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/08/19/news134685/ Vladimir Legoyda, head of the Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and the Media, stated to Interfax, "I have long known Olga Vasilieva, from the moment when she directed the Department of Religious Studies at the Russian Academy of State Service. She has made a significant contribution to the development of the national theological schools." http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=3&id=69349 She has also been a professor at the Sretensky Seminary in Moscow. She is a member of the new dissertation council for degrees in theology, chaired by Metropolitan Hilarion. http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/93908.htm In 2009, the Sretensky Monastery did an interesting interview of Vasilyeva about her life and involvement with the Sretensky Monastery and Seminary, including how she first met Archimandrite (now Bishop) Tikhon in 2001. http://www.pravoslavie.ru/30696.html Many other interviews and articles by her on the Sretensky website can be accessed at http://www.pravoslavie.ru/82704.html.
With respect to education, the Moscow Patriarchate has several important concerns such as the teaching of religion in public schools and the state recognition of degrees granted by church seminaries and academies. Vasilyeva has stated that her work on historical and religious themes will not affect the secular nature of her activities as Minister of Education and Science. http://tass.ru/obschestvo/3551624 Although the Moscow Patriarchate is very pleased with this appointment, there are probably some individuals who may nevertheless view it as further evidence of an increasing bond between church and state – a bond which may affect the independence of the church.
Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpatkos (Church of Greece), who refused to sign the Crete document on relations with the rest of the Christian world, has written a short article praising the role of Patriarch Daniel and the Romanian Patriarchate at the Crete Council. The article includes interesting details which I had not previously heard. You may read the article at http://basilica.ro/en/metropolitan-hierotheos-vlachos-on-the-delegation-of-the-romanian-patriarchate-at-the-council-of-crete-well-prepared-and-firm-on-stand/ (English) or http://orthodoxie.com/observations-du-metropolite-de-naupacte-hierothee-sur-la-position-du-patriarcat-de-roumanie-lors-du-saint-et-grand-concile/ (French). The article concludes: “Out of all the primates present, the Patriarch of Romania, Daniel, showed he had the best theological command and capacity to sustain his opinions. He also had the capacity to make alternate proposals when his proposals were not accepted….In general, the Patriarch of Romania impressed all the members of the Council with his theological knowledge and how he approached the themes to be discussed.” It is interesting that this praise for Patriarch Daniel comes from a very conservative hierarch. However, unlike the conservative hierarchs, Patriarch Daniel is a great supporter of regular pan-Orthodox Councils every five, seven, or ten years. As Patriarch Daniel stated in his opening remarks at the Crete Council, “If synodality is a canonical rule at local level, it must also be a rule at universal pan-Orthodox level.” http://basilica.ro/en/patriarch-of-romania-synodality-must-be-a-rule-at-pan-orthodox-level-not-just-at-local-level-video/ In my opinion, this praise may be a further indication the Romanian Patriarchate (the second largest Local Orthodox Church) may represent a crucial middle ground between conservative and liberal Orthodox as well as a middle ground between the Moscow and the Ecumenical Patriarchates. Romania has offered to host the next pan-Orthodox Council, according Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware).
The Patriarchate of Georgia will make its official response to the Crete documents after its Bishops Council in October. This was reported in article describing a July 25-28 visit to Georgia by group of conservative clergy and professors from Greece. https://orthodoxethos.com/post/cerkovnaya-delegaciya-iz-grecii-vstretilas-s-patriarhom-i-ierarhami-gruzinskoj-cerkvi The delegation came to thank the Georgian Patriarchate for its stand against ecumenism and to discuss the future response of the Patriarchate to the Crete Council. Interestingly, Pope Francis will be meeting with Catholicos-Patriarch Ilia in Tbilisi on September 30, shortly before the Bishops Council. http://www.news.va/en/news/programme-of-the-popes-apostolic-trip-to-georgia-a
Finally, the director of the press office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has stated that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has not been affected by the measures taken by the Turkish government after the failed coup. http://orthodoxie.com/le-directeur-du-bureau-de-presse-du-patriarcat-oecumenique-sexprime-au-sujet-de-la-tentative-de-coup-detat-en-turquie/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
19 August 2016: Pope positive on visit to Belarus
The new apostolic nuncio to Belarus, Archbishop Gabor Pinter, arrived in Minsk today (Aug. 18). He replaces Archbishop Claudio Gugerotti, who was transferred to be the nuncio in Ukraine. Archbishop Pinter, who is Hungarian, has been in the Vatican’s diplomatic service since 1996. He was ordained a bishop last month, and Belarus is his first assignment as a nuncio. https://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2016/05/13/160513g.html The arrival of Archbishop Pinter in Minsk is the subject of an article that was posted today on the official website of the Catholic Church in Belarus. http://www.catholic.by/2/home/news/belarus/34-belarus/131491-visit.html In the article, Archbishop Pinter was quoted as saying:
"I met with Pope Francis 13 days ago, and almost the first thing we discussed was the last visit of President Alexander Lukashenko to Rome and his meeting with the Pontiff, as well as the invitation to come to Belarus. The Pope said that we will find the time and opportunity for this visit. I cannot say when or how, but I think that what was said by the Pope - is something positive for Belarus " [Google translation]
Lukashenko met with Pope Francis on May 21 and told him that it was time for him to visit Belarus. http://president.gov.by/en/news_en/view/meeting-with-pope-francis-13685/ For many years Lukashenko has been anxious for a papal visit to Belarus. Catholic – Orthodox relations in Belarus have generally been good and have been better than in Russia. On March 10, Metropolitan Pavel of Minsk and Patriarchal Exarch of All Belarus stated that a papal visit to Belarus was entirely possible, provided Patriarch Kirill approves the visit. http://eng.belta.by/society/view/metropolitan-pavel-does-not-rule-out-popes-visit-to-belarus-89528-2016/
As you recall, both Moscow and Bulgaria stated that they could not comment on the Crete documents until they receive the official copies of the documents. On August 9, the Patriarchate of Georgia stated that it had now received the official copies. http://patriarchate.ge/geo/kretaze-mighebuli-dokumentebi/ Presumably the other Local Churches have as well.
In my last report I provide a link to a RISU article in which Archbishop Job is quoted as saying that Constantinople has always believed that Ukraine was part of its canonical territory. The Moscow Patriarchate immediately responded that it could not believe that Archbishop Job made such a statement and accused the interviewer of a sensational journalistic fiction. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=analysis&div=50 In a subsequent interview, Archbishop Job stated that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has no plans to create one more concurrent jurisdiction in Ukraine, because such a non-canonical situation will only aggravate the problem. http://pravlife.org/content/my-dolzhny-byt-lyudmi-dialoga The latter statement received considerable publicity in Russia. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=13158 However, it should be remembered that in July the request of the Ukrainian parliament for the Ecumenical Patriarchate to grant autocephaly to the church in Ukraine was referred by the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Holy Synod to a competent Synodal Commission for further study. http://www.amen.gr/article/oi-apofaseis-tis-agias-kai-ieras-synodou-tou-oikoumenikou-patriarxeiou To the best of my knowledge this Commission has not yet completed its work.
The Vatican announced today that Pope Francis will return to Assisi on Sept. 20 to participate in the closing of the World Day of Prayer for Peace, organized by the Community of Sant’Egidio. The theme this year is “Thirst for peace. Religions and culture in dialogue.” https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2016/08/18/pope-francis-visit-assisi/ The Catholic Polish news agency KAI has posted an article that states that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be there as well. https://ekai.pl/wydarzenia/ekumenizm/x102573/franciszek-na-miedzyreligijnym-spotkaniu-w-intencji-pokoju/
Hope you are enjoying your summer!
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
1 August 2016 (2): Ukraine - disputes increase
This afternoon, the Department of External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate issued an important communique that has a profound effect on the Catholic – Orthodox theological dialogue. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/08/01/news134450/ The final critical paragraph of the communique reads as follows:
Due to the rhetoric of the UGCC Supreme Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk and Cardinal Lubomir Husar, unprecedented in its aggressiveness towards the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Moscow Patriarchate on the whole, the Department for External Church Relations of the Moscow Patriarchate believes it an emergency task to revisit the issue of canonical and pastoral consequences of unia at the next plenary session of the Joint Commission for Orthodox-Catholic Dialogue planned for September 15-22, 2016, in Chieti, Italy. Is it possible to hold dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church on other theological issues at a time when the problem of unia continues to be a bleeding wound while the leaders of uniatism do not stop their blasphemous and politicized rhetoric aimed against the canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church? Dialogue on the canonical and pastoral consequences of unia, forcibly interrupted through the fault of the Greek Catholics, should be resumed without delay.
As you probably know, the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches held its VIII plenary at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland USA, July 9-19, 2000. The topic was “Ecclesiological and Canonical Implications of the Uniatism.” It was a very difficult plenary, and the parties were unable to move beyond what had previously been agreed in the Balamand statement. As a result of the deadlock, no future plenary sessions were discussed. After a six-year suspension of the dialogue, the Commission, under new leadership (Metropolitan Ioannis of Pergamon and Cardinal Kasper), met in Belgrade in 2006 to discuss a different topic, “The Ecclesiological and Canonical Consequences of the Sacramental Nature of the Church: Conciliarity and Authority in the Church.” The plenary was productive and led to the Ravenna statement in 2007. Since then the Commission has focused on conciliarity and primacy in the first millennium.
On September 15-18, 2015, the Commission’s Coordinating Committee met in Rome and reached agreement on a document, “Towards a Common Understanding of Synodality and Primacy in the Church in the First Millennium.” The Coordinating Committee included Metropolitan Hilarion. https://mospat.ru/en/2015/09/18/news122803/ The document was to be considered for approval by the next plenary session that has now been set for September 15-22, 2016, in Chieti, Italy. With both Constantinople and Moscow agreeing with the document at the Coordinating Committee level, the chances of the document being approved at the plenary level seemed to be fairly good. However, in recent months, I have had one worry. It has been apparent to me, at least, that the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate has been attempting to defend itself in recent months from the very strong and negative reaction from conservatives to the Havana meeting with Pope Francis and the approval by the leadership, in the February MP Council of Bishop, of the document on relations to the rest of the Christian world to be considered by the Crete Council. It seemed to me that if Moscow agreed with Catholics at Chieti with a document (even a very modest one) on the first millennium, it would cause a new attack by conservatives on the leadership of the Moscow Patriarchate. Now, with the release of the communique, that worry no longer exists. Instead, the Moscow Patriarchate will be taking the offensive at Chieti on a completely different topic. Of course, the position of the Moscow Patriarchate on changing the subject of the plenary to the “unia” does not mean that all of the other Local Orthodox Churches will agree with the change. However, it does mean that the Chieti plenary will now be a very difficult meeting and that the chances of reaching agreement on the document have been greatly reduced.
I am sure that the DECR sincerely believes that the statements by Shevchuk and Husar are wrong. So that you can read the statements by them in context and judge for yourself, the following are the links to the full interviews: http://risu.org.ua/ua/index/monitoring/society_digest/64034/ (Shevchuk); http://news.ugcc.ua/interview/blazhenn%D1%96shiy_lyubomir_ne_mozhna_odnochasno_molitisya_za_mir_%D1%96_biti_kulakom_po_nos%D1%96_77148.html (Husar) The Google translation tool provides a fairly good translation from the Ukrainian.
On another subject relating to Ukraine, Archbishop Job (Ecumenical Patriarchate) has given an interview in Kyiv. http://risu.org.ua/ua/index/expert_thought/interview/64119/ It has just been posted today. It is a detailed discussion of the granting of autocephalous status in general as well as a discussion relating to Ukraine. Using the translation tool, it appears to me that Archbishop Job is stating: “Constantinople has always believed that the territory of Ukraine is the canonical territory of the Church of Constantinople.” I am sure that we will hear from Moscow about this.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
1 August 2016 (1): WYD & St. Vladimir
Today, World Youth Day (WYD) concluded in Krakow. Pope Francis was in Poland from July 27-31. What impressed me the most was the vigil last night when Pope Francis and approximately 1.5 million young people were in silent and prayerful adoration before Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament for over 30 minutes. You can see this at 1:40:00 to 2:13:00 in the following video, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LyxHqVdath8 . In the final Mass this morning, there was approximately 2 million in attendance. As a sign of the unity of Christian East and West, the gospel at the Mass was chanted in both Polish and Church Slavonic. Relations between East and West were also stressed by Pope Francis in his address to civil authorities at the Wawel Castle on July 27. There, the Pope praised “the Joint Declaration between the Catholic Church in Poland and the Orthodox Church of Moscow: an act that inaugurated a process of rapprochement and fraternity not only between the two Churches, but also between the two peoples.” http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2016/july/documents/papa-francesco_20160727_polonia-autorita-cd.html
At the invitation of Cardinal Dziwisz, a delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate attended WYD. The delegation was headed by 42-year old Metropolitan Isidor of Smolensk, the deputy chairman of the Synodal Department of Youth Affairs. The Metropolitan and the members of his delegation met with Pope Francis immediately after the Mass at the Jasna Gora shrine at Czestochowa on July 28. As a gift, they gave Pope Francis a beautiful copy of the Smolensk icon of the Mother of God, which, like the Czestochowa icon, is patterned after the Hodegetria. Two very good photos of the meeting can be seen at http://gaudete.ru/sdm-ikona/. During the Mass at Jasna Gora, many bishops were seated at the left of the altar. Metropolitan Isidor was seated in the first row with the cardinals. In the video of the Mass (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=270gFdax1MY), you can see Metropolitan Isidor, with his white monastic veil, at 1:13:17 (seated with cardinals), 2:09:05 (exchanging the kiss of peace with Pope Francis), and 2:36:37 (presenting the icon to the Pope). Metropolitan Isidor was also visible at other WYD events.
Metropolitan Isidor’s city of Smolensk is significant to Poland. You may recall that on April 10, 2010, the President of Poland and many national leaders died in a plane crash on the approach to the Smolensk airport. They were coming to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Katyn massacre, which occurred near Smolensk. The crash resulted in a great outpouring of sympathy and compassion in Russia. A day of mourning was declared in Russia, and all entertainment on television was cancelled. Even though airports were closed due to volcanic ash from Iceland, Russian President Medvedev still came to Krakow for the funeral of Polish President Kaczynski at the Wawel Cathedral. During the funeral homily, Cardinal Dziwisz addressed President Medvedev and stated that the sympathy and assistance that Poles received in these days from their Russian brothers revives the hopes of rapprochement and reconciliation between the two Slavic nations. The Cardinal stated, “This [reconciliation] is the task of our generation.”
The feast of St. Vladimir was celebrated in Kyiv on July 28. Prior to the feast day, the UOC-MP had organized large and impressive pilgrimage processions, one originating from Eastern Ukraine and one from Western Ukraine, that converged at Kyiv. http://www.pravmir.com/to100-000-believers-join-ranks-cross-procession-kiev/ The procession from the West brought with it the miracle-working Pochayev icon of the Mother of God. In Kyiv, the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Archbishop Job (Getcha) of Telmessos, a Canadian of Ukrainian ancestry, participated in the vigil and Liturgy for the feast day with Metropolitan Onufry, the head of the UOC-MP. http://news.church.ua/2016/07/27/naperedodni-svyata-xreshhennya-rusi-predstoyatel-upc-ocholiv-vsenichne-bdinnya-na-sobornij-ploshhi-u-kijevo-pecherskij-lavri/ (vigil); http://news.church.ua/2016/07/28/ukrajinska-pravoslavna-cerkva-urochisto-vidznachila-den-xreshhennya-rusi/ (liturgy). Significantly, Archbishop Job refused the invitations of the UOC-KP to participate in its celebrations. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=13148 On July 28 at the Hill of St. Vladimir, there was also a public prayer service and celebration of the feast in which various denominations, including both the UOC-MP and UOC-KP, participated. Ukrainian President Poroshenko in his address at this celebration turned to Archbishop Job and stated: “Vladika [Master], tell His All-Holiness that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church needs urgent attention from the Ecumenical Throne of Constantinople. He is the only one who is able to help Orthodox Ukrainians unite and resolve the issue of canonical status of the Ukrainian Church in the structure of the world Orthodoxy.” http://www.president.gov.ua/en/news/prezident-ukrayina-potrebuye-dopomogi-vselenskogo-patriarhat-37745
Two eyewitnesses to the death of Metropolitan Nikodim of Leningrad in the presence of Pope John Paul I have described the event in a 7-minute video that has been recently posted. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gf34bPqXInA The eye witnesses were Archimandrite Lev (Tserpitsky), who had been the private secretary of Metropolitan Nikodim and who is now the Metropolitan of Novgorod, and Father Miguel Arranz, who was the Pope’s translator. The descriptions were filmed by the Moscow Patriarchate’s television channel SPAS. SPAS was founded in 2005 and Arranz died in 2008, so the filming must have occurred between those two years. Although I do not personally understand the Russian, I am told that it includes a description that when Metropolitan Nikodim collapsed, Pope John Paul I knelt beside the Metropolitan and listened to his last words. It appears that the video has now been posted and circulated by conservative Orthodox who seek to discredit Metropolitan Nikodim (the spirit mentor of Patriarch Kirill) for his close relationship with Catholics. Still, the video appears to be an accurate description of this event.
July 24 marked the 50th birthday of Metropolitan Hilarion (Alfeyev). On the evening of July 22, a birthday celebration was held at Moscow’s Pashkov House (now part of the Russian State Library). http://www.pravmir.com/festive-night-devoted-metropolitan-hilarion-s-50th-birthday/ It was in this house that the Metropolitan’s parents first met. His mother was there for the gala birthday celebration. Many people traveled to Moscow to attend. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/07/23/news133972/ The Vatican was represented by Father Hyacinthe Destivelle OP. Earlier in the day, Metropolitan Hilarion presented the first volume of a series of six volumes that he is writing on “Jesus Christ. Life and Teaching.” https://mospat.ru/en/2016/07/22/news133942/ The entire 57-minute presentation can be watched at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1P4IX4T2Ouc . On the Metropolitan’s actual birthday, Sunday, July 24, he celebrated the Liturgy at his own parish of the “Icon of the Mother of God, Joy of All the Afflicted” with Patriarch Kirill and many other bishops. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/07/24/news134168/ After the Liturgy, Metropolitan Hilarion made a beautiful tribute to Patriarch Kirill. I have pasted the text of the tribute below. On July 21, Metropolitan Hilarion gave a very interesting interview concerning his childhood and later life, and this is now available in English. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/07/21/news133907/ This weekend Metropolitan Hilarion was in Slovenia. The visit included this issuance of a joint statement signed by Metropolitan Hilarion and the leading hierarchs of the Catholic Church and the Serbian Patriarchate in Slovenia. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/07/30/news134370/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
REMARKS BY METROPOLITAN HILARION TO PATRIARCH KIRILL:
Your Holiness and Merciful Father,
On this day I would like first of all to thank God who has brought us all to this life and given us an opportunity to work together for glorification of His holy name.
After a half a century-long life in this world, you feel special gratitude to your parents who have given you life. I would like to express special gratitude to my mother, who raised me and gave me the rudiments of the Orthodox faith. She is present here today.
There were many good mentors in my life, and today I remember them with gratitude. Some are still alive while others already in the heaven and several of them have been ranked among saints. And this gives you a special feeling of touch with the world we all seek, a feeling that there is no impassable and unsurmountable border between heaven and earth, between the community of saints in the triumphant Church and our human community in the militant Church and the wandering Church.
I would like to express special and cordial gratitude to you, Your Holiness, for calling me 21 years ago to serve in your team and for the fact that since that time I have the joy and happiness to be your assistant. You have led me through various church tasks and I have always felt that in all the decisions you have taken concerning me there was the will of God. Therefore, I have taken all these decisions with complete calm and, according to the commandment of your teacher, Metropolitan Nikodim of eternal memory, I have never sought after anything but never refused anything either.
The important service of the chairman of the Department for External Church Relations, with which you have entrusted me, involves very special duties, but your constant primatial attention to the work of the Department helps me to carry them out.
When a day begins I stand up before the Lord and ask myself: what does the Lord want from me on this day? I ask the Lord to give me strength to carry out the mission entrusted to me and to do by Himself what is beyond human effort. Again and again I see for myself that the Lord through us does the work He wants to do on the earth – the work of people’s salvation. We are only tools in His hands, and even if we refuse to be obedient to Him, He still makes us do it. Thus, in the Book of the Prophet Jonah, we read that the Lord sent him to Nineveh. The prophet did not want to go there, found himself on a boat, was swallowed by a whale, went through hardships, and the whale vomited him out to the dry land. And what was the result? The result was that the Lord said, ‘Now go and do what I told you to do from the very beginning’.
God expects from us the fulfilment of His assignments. I receive these assignments from the Lord through you, Your Holiness. Therefore, every time when I stand praying before the Lord, I ask that He may help me carry out your assignments in the way you expect it from me. And concerning the additional service linked with theology and religious education, which you mentioned today, I try to fulfil it so that it may be beneficial for the Holy Church in the fields of theological science, which need to be developed and require that we should tell God’s truths to people in the modern language.
Your Holiness, I am happy to be not only your assistant but also your disciple. Coming in touch with you in this everyday work for the good of the Church, I can see how you give all your resources without sparing yourself, without sparing your health. I can see how devotedly you carry out God’s service. I admire you and try to emulate you as much as I can.
23 July 2016: Moscow wants to see signatures
In my last email, I referred to an interview by RIA Novesti of Vladimir Legoyda, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and the Media. In the interview, Legoyda stated that the Moscow Patriarchate will continue to prepare for a pan-Orthodox Council. Now RIA Novesti has posted an interview of Metropolitan Hilarion in which he makes clear that the Moscow Patriarchate is not prepared to discuss conditions for a future pan-Orthodox Council. He said that “it is too early to say something.” In this regard, Metropolitan Hilarion stresses that the Moscow Patriarchate has not seen the official documents yet, and “we have not seen the signatures.” http://ria.ru/religion/20160722/1472595583.html He stated that the Moscow Patriarchate will not respond to the texts that have been posted online and will take no action until it receives the official copies. http://ria.ru/religion/20160722/1472596687.html [The online texts list the names of all of the attending bishops including those who have acknowledged that they did not sign a specific documents.] Certified photocopies of the original documents will show the actual signatures.
Metropolitan Hilarion in the interview maintains that for one of the documents, only seven of the 24 delegates of one Local Church signed the documents. He refers to this as a “serious indicator.” It is my guess that he is referring to the Serbian Patriarchate and the document on relations with the rest of the Christian world. Two of the most influential bishops of the Serbian Patriarchate, Bishop Irinej of Backa and Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro, have acknowledged that they did not sign this document. There was also a report that a number of the Serbian bishops did not sign the document. However, I have not heard the surprising claim that as many as 17 of the 24 Serbian bishops did not sign. On the other hand, there appears to be no disagreement that the Serbian Patriarchate agreed to the document. How can this be reconciled with the figures given by Metropolitan Hilarion?
It seems to me that it is possible for a bishop to vote for his Local Church (each Local Church has one vote) to accept a document even though the individual bishop may not be totally happy with the document. The approval of the document on relations to the rest of the Christian world was the result of a compromise, especially with respect to whether the non-Orthodox constitute a “church.” One can accept a compromise even though one would personally prefer some other language. In such a situation, one could vote for acceptance by the Local Church, but show one’s lack of complete satisfaction by not personally signing the document. Under Article 11 of the Working Procedures of the Crete Council, there is a procedure for an individual bishop to register a “dissent” to a document, and the “dissenting position shall be registered in the Council’s Minutes.” I am not aware of any claim that any of the Serbian bishops submitted such a “dissent.”
The Catholic website Crux has posted a commentary on the results of the recent Rome meeting of the joint commission relating to Cardinal Stepinac. https://cruxnow.com/commentary/2016/07/21/time-serbians-put-shut-sainthood-candidate/ Although the commentary is definitely not written from the Serbian perspective, it does give information on the subject matter of each of the future meetings, with the final meeting scheduled in July 2017.
Crux has also posted an interview with Cardinal Dziwisz, Archbishop of Krakow and former personal secretary to Pope John Paul II. https://cruxnow.com/world-youth-day-krakow/2016/07/20/cardinal-served-polish-pope-readies-swan-song/ With respect to World Youth Day in Krakow, July 25-31, 2016, the Cardinal stated that there are delegations coming from the Russian Orthodox Patriarchate and also from various Protestant denominations. As you may recall, Cardinal Dziwisz gave Metropolitan Hilarion a letter on December 1, 2013, inviting Patriarch Kirill to visit World Youth Day. Although I am sure that the Patriarch will not be coming, it appears that a delegation will be sent.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
21 July 2016: Kirill in Kazan & more
Today, July 21, is the feast day of the discovery of the original Kazan icon by 10-year-old Matrona in 1579. Patriarch Kirill was in Kazan today to lay the first stone for the reconstruction of the Cathedral at the Mother of God Monastery -- a cathedral located over the very spot where Matrona had found the icon. The original cathedral, which was very large, had been destroyed by the communists in 1932. Last November the President of Tatarstan signed a decree that the cathedral should be rebuilt. Excavations have now disclosed the foundations of the cathedral under the surface of the ground. An exact copy of the original cathedral will now be built on these foundations. Prior to the laying of the stone, the Patriarch celebrated the Liturgy in the Annunciation Cathedral of the Kazan Kremlin. A procession of the cross then went to the Mother of God Monastery. The following video shows parts of the procession and the stone laying ceremony. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otA4DbBdF6E
For Catholics, the events in Kazan have a particular interest because the copy of the Kazan icon, which was kept by Pope John Paul II in his apartment for 11 years and which was previously in Fatima for approximately 20 years, is now the primary Kazan icon at the Mother of God Monastery. This copy of the Kazan icon was very much a focus of attention today. It was first brought to the Annunciation Cathedral for the Liturgy. It was then carried by the procession to the Mother of God Monastery. During the ceremony of laying the first stone, the icon was on a stand next to the Patriarch. The following article from the Evening Kazan newspaper describes the pressing crowds of people seeking to venerate the icon after the ceremony. http://www.evening-kazan.ru/articles/patriarh-kirill-yavlenie-ikony-bozhiey-materi-primirilo-russkiy-narod-s-tatarskim.html The police had to return to control the crowd, and doctors had to revive 10 people who fainted.
On July 18, the Russian news agency RIA Novesti posted an interview with Vladimir Legoyda, the head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Synodal Department for Church Relations with Society and the Media. http://ria.ru/religion/20160718/1469931669.html In the interview, Legoyda stated that the Russian Orthodox Church will continue to prepare for the pan-Orthodox Council. “The Council is the result of the normal course of Orthodox life. Despite all the difficulties, it must be carefully prepared. I can repeat our readiness to work in this direction, and I think that we will find ways on how to implement this work. The mechanisms are known, it is necessary to wait awhile." http://ria.ru/religion/20160718/1469931669.html#ixzz4Ez6aZSal I personally believe that this statement is very significant. For Moscow, this future Council would be the first truly pan-Orthodox Council with the participation of all of the 14 autocephalous Churches. However, this future Council could also be viewed as the second of a series of regularly-held Councils as advocated by such persons as Patriarch Daniel of Romania.
In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew stressed the importance of dialogue, especially with “the sister Roman Catholic Church.” http://ricerca.repubblica.it/repubblica/archivio/repubblica/2016/07/19/bartholomeos-i42.html?ref=search The Ecumenical Patriarch has used this phrase in the past, and his use of it again shows that he has not been deterred by the recent arguments by conservative Orthodox that Catholics do not constitute a “church.”
The following is a very interesting and candid English-language interview of Metropolitan Kallistos concerning the Crete Council which he attended. https://www.osv.com/osvnewsweekly/article/tabid/535/artmid/13567/articleid/20214/metropolitan-kallistos-reflects-on-orthodox-council.aspx He says that Romania has offered to host the next Council! Father Nathanael Symeonides of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has produced a very good 10-minutes video relating to the Crete Council. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6M35h56Nsec The video has some very interesting scenes from the working (non-public) portions of the Council.
Metropolitan Mitrofan, chairman of the DECR of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP), has sent a letter to Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew concerning the meeting in Kyiv on July 14 between Metropolitan Yuri of Winnipeg (Ecumenical Patriarchate) with the head of the UOC-KP Filaret. http://news.church.ua/2016/07/15/golova-vzcz-upc-povidomiv-patriarxa-varfolomiya-pro-nekanonichni-diji-v-ukrajini-ijerarxa-vselenskogo-patriarxatu/ The following is the report of the UOC-KP concerning the meeting: http://www.cerkva.info/en/news/patriarch/8677-canada-meeting.html The meeting involved a delegation of the Canadian Department of National Defense, which included the chief military chaplain of the Canadian armed forces, and the subject of the meeting related to the training of Ukrainian military chaplains. Apparently, Metropolitan Yuri was a member of the Canadian delegation.
The Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate at its July 15 meeting approved a resolution “To send to the plenary session of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church in the town of Chieti [Italy](15-22 September 2016), the delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church as follows: 1) Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Department for External Church Relations - Head of Delegation; 2) Archimandrite Irenaeus (Steenberg), abbot of the monastery in the name of St. Silouan in Sonora [California USA].” https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/07/15/news133728/ (Journal entry 57). At the same meeting, the Holy Synod passed a resolution “to approve the decision of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia on the election Archimandrite Irenaeus (Steenberg) as bishop of Sacramento, Vicar of the Western American Diocese….” (Journal entry 52).
Who is the new Bishop Irenaeus (Matthew Craig Steenberg)? The following are good biographies of this 37-year-old American: http://www.synod.com/synod/eng2016/20160718_enarhimirenei.html (general life); http://www.sforthodoxinstitute.org/administration/101-faculty/184-irenei (academic accomplishments); https://ru.wikipedia.org/wiki/%D0%98%D1%80%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B5%D0%B9_(%D0%A1%D1%82%D0%B8%D0%BD%D0%B1%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%B3) (biography in Russian). From the biographies, it is apparent to me that Bishop Irenaeus is a brilliant person with very impressive academic qualifications and that he is a rising star within the Moscow Patriarchate. In a sense, he is somewhat like Metropolitan Hilarion – they both studied under Metropolitan Kallistos at Oxford. Matthew Steenberg spent most of his youth in the university town of Moscow, Idaho USA (not far from where I live). He attended St. Olaf College, an excellent small Lutheran college south of Minneapolis USA, where his accomplishments were very impressive. http://wp.stolaf.edu/great-conversation/studentawards/matthewsteenberg/ He received from the British government a prestigious Marshall Scholarship which brought him to Oxford University. At Oxford, he received his Master’s Degree and then Doctorate in Patristic Studies and Church History. Before moving to San Francisco in 2010, he was a teaching Fellow in Theology at Oxford, lecturing on Patristics, Church History and Orthodox Theology, and then Chair and Professor of Theology and Religious Studies at Leeds Trinity University. In March 2010 he came a monk and took the name of St. Irenaeus of Lyon, who had been the subject of many of his studies. In 2012 he founded Sts. Cyril & Athanasius Institute for Orthodox Studies in San Francisco. There are a number of videos of Bishop Irenaeus, but I enjoyed the following the most: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Du51fsBuDfk (he is seen at 7:20 and 17:20).
As noted above, the next plenary of the Joint International Commission will be held in September in Chieti, Italy. It will be hosted by Archbishop Bruno Forte, Archbishop of Chieti-Vasto and a member of the Joint International Commission. It appears that the Commission will be reviewing the draft document, “Towards a Common Understanding of Synodality and Primacy in the Church in the First Millennium,” which was approved by the Commission’s Coordinating Committee in Rome last September. https://mospat.ru/en/2015/09/18/news122803/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
15 July 2016 (2): Ecumenical Patriarchate on Ukraine & clarification
Today, the Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued a communique based on last weekend’s meeting of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. You may recall that on June 16, 2016, the Ukrainian Parliament issued an appeal to the Ecumenical Patriarch for the following: (1) to recognize invalid the act in 1686 as the one adopted in violation of the sacred canons of the Orthodox Church; (2) to take an active part in overcoming the church schism by convening Ukrainian unification council under the auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which would solve all controversial issues and unite the Ukrainian Orthodox Church; (3) for the benefit of the Orthodox Church in Ukraine and the integrity of the Ukrainian nation, to issue the Tomos granting autocephaly to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine, under which it can take its rightful place in the family of Local Orthodox Churches. http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/state/church_state_relations/63709/ The communique states that the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to refer this appeal to a competent Synodal Commission for further study. http://www.amen.gr/article/oi-apofaseis-tis-agias-kai-ieras-synodou-tou-oikoumenikou-patriarxeiou
In response to my report sent a few hours ago, Father John Chryssavgis, who was the spokesperson for the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the Crete Synod, has sent me a email with a clarification relating to the letter by the 60 monks at Mt. Athos. Father John has given me permission to use his clarification below:
Every institution and individual is able to weigh in on the Holy and Great Council. That has been part of the preconciliar process and is a vital part of the reception process.
However, sometimes, a little clarification is helpful. It is important to note that, while some Athonite monks may express opposition, the Holy Community has actually supported the council. The Ecumenical Patriarch invited the Holy Mountain to send a representative to Crete as part of the formal delegation (as an advisor) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate -- precisely because it welcomes and respects the opinion (and, perhaps especially, the prayer) of the Mountain. In response, the Holy Community, which comprises representatives of all the monastic institutions on Mt. Athos, officially appointed a delegate to the Holy and Great Council. Thus, the Very Rev. Archimandrite Tikhon, Abbot of Stavronikita Monastery (and, it might also be noted for those who like to compare and compete among the saints [!], a disciple of St. Paisios), attended the Holy and Great Council, and was even asked to advise the participant bishops on a couple of occasions. His considerate and compassionate counsel reflected the moderate and balanced nature of genuine Athonite monasticism.
So the Holy Mountain was not only supportive, but even present at the Holy and Great Council, at the express invitation of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
In reading the letter of the 60 monks, it is very clear that the letter is extreme, to say the least. http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/95378.htm For example, it states: "The Patriarch of Constantinople stands as the chief inspirer and promoter of the Synodical text and as such for us Athonite Fathers, but also for all Orthodox Christians, priests and laymen, he has been shown to be, in word and deed, a Heresiarch, as once was Arius, Nestorius, Bekko, etc., as distinguished clergy and theologians have clearly demonstrated.” In contrast to this extreme approach by these 60 monks, the letter sent from the Holy Kinot (the governing body of Mt. Athos) to the Ecumenical Patriarch before the Crete Synod was moderate and very respectful. http://katehon.com/article/open-letter-holy-mount-athos-kinot-patriarch-constantinople-bartholomew-i It would certainly be a mistake to conclude that the views of these 60 monks reflect the official views of Mt. Athos.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
15 July 2016 (1): Moscow's Holy Synod on Crete Council
Today (Friday), the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held its summer meeting. The official minutes have been posted in the last 15 minutes. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4561903.html The Council in Crete was discussed in Journal entry 48. A Google translation of the resolution stated in this entry is as follows:
- Recognize that took what place at the Crete Council, which was attended by the primates and bishops of ten of the fifteen autocephalous Orthodox Churches, was an important event in the history of synodality of the Orthodox Church in the process initiated by the first Pan-Orthodox Conference in Rhodes in 1961.
- To emphasize that the basis of Pan-Orthodox cooperation throughout the conciliar process was the principle of consensus.
- Stated that the conduct of the Council in the absence of consent on the part of a number of autocephalous Orthodox Churches violates this principle, so that the Council held on Crete cannot be regarded as a Pan-Orthodox, and the documents adopted by it - as expressing general Orthodox consensus.
- To note in connection with this the position of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch.
- To instruct the Synodal Biblical-Theological Commission, upon receipt of the officially certified copies of the documents approved by the Council in Crete, to publish and to study them, taking into account where possible the reactions and comments of reverend bishops, religious educational institutions, theologians, clergy, monastics, and laity. As a result of a comprehensive study, to present the findings to the Holy Synod.
Yesterday, 60 Mt Athos monks wrote an open letter to the Holy Kinot, the governing body of Mt. Athos, requesting that the Holy Kinot condemn the Crete Council. According to the letter, the Crete Council was heretical, non-canonical and predatory. Twelve grounds are given for this conclusion. Some relate to the pan-heresy of ecumenism and ignoring the attitude of Mt. Athos toward the papacy and ecumenism. The letter threatens to cease the commemoration of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the Liturgy. https://orthodoxethos.com/post/athonite-fathers-call-for-rejection-of-cretan-council-and-cessation-of-commemoration-of-the-patriarch-of-constantinople (English) An Russian article on this subject may be read at http://ria.ru/religion/20160714/1466136295.html .
A surprising item was posted on the official website of the Bulgarian Patriarch. It is essentially a public notice from Bulgarian Metropolitan Naum of Rousse (the former eparchy of Neophyte) that Bulgarian Patriarch Neophyte acted improperly by blessing the publication of two books by the famous stauropegial Rila Monastery without obtaining the prior approval of the Holy Synod. http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=209118 That this type of internal matter needs to be publically posted on the church website by Metropolitan Naum indicates to me a problem within the Bulgarian Patriarchate. With respect to the Crete Council, the Bulgarian Patriarchate has stated that it has not yet received the official copies of the Crete documents. It states that it cannot begins the translation process into Bulgarian until the official copies are received. It furthermore states that the review of the documents by the Bulgarian Holy Synod can only begin when the bishops are given the Bulgarian translations. http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=208844
John Allen has written an interesting commentary of the future meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Ilia of Georgia. https://cruxnow.com/analysis/2016/07/14/popes-outreach-orthodoxy-features-ironies-fire/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
12 July 2016: Georgia & Stepinac
The Vatican released today the schedule of the visit of Pope Francis to Georgia and Azerbaijan, September 30 to October 2. https://cruxnow.com/vatican/2016/07/11/popes-trip-georgia-azerbaijan-feature-politics-outreach/ It confirms that Pope Francis will be meeting with Catholicos - Patriarch Ilia II at the patriarchal palace and will also visit the patriarchal Svetitskhoveli Cathedral in Mtskheta. Pope John Paul II had met with Patriarch Ilia II during his trip to Georgia in November 1999. However, I believe the September meeting will be significant in that it closely follows the meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill in Havana. Patriarch Kirill has been greatly criticized by conservative Orthodox for the Havana meeting. However, now, Patriarch Ilia, whom conservative Orthodox consider one of their champions, is also meeting the Pope. This may takes some of the heat off Patriarch Kirill.
The Serbian Tanjug news agency has announced that the first meeting of the joint Catholic –Orthodox commission to examine the role of Cardinal Stepinac during World War II will be held in Rome beginning tomorrow (Tuesday). http://www.tanjug.rs/full-view.aspx?izb=257358 This has also been announced by the Croatian media. http://www.vecernji.hr/hrvatska/prvi-sastanak-predstavnika-katolicke-crkve-i-spc-a-komisija-o-stepincu-u-utorak-1098026
Metropolitan Hierotheos of Nafpatkos, who refused to sign the Crete document on relations with the rest of the Christian world, has provided an interesting description of the various suggested amendments to this document during the closing hours of the Council. http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/94908.htm (English) Two Serbian bishops have also acknowledged their refusal to sign this document. Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro considered the document “inadequately prepared.” http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/95154.htm (English) Bishop Irinej of Backa has given a detail explanation for his refusal. The full text of his detailed explanation can be read in Greek at http://www.romfea.gr/images/article-images/2016/07/romfea2/ba.pdf . It is summarized in French at http://orthodoxie.com/leveque-irenee-de-backa-eglise-orthodoxe-serbe-pourquoi-je-nai-pas-signe-le-texte-conciliaire-relations-de-leglise-orthodoxe-avec-le/ . Interestingly, Bishop Irinej believes that the term “Church” should remain for the Roman Catholic Church because "the dogmatic conflicts between it and ourselves, which last over a thousand years, have not yet been decided at the level of an ecumenical council, although there were the pseudo-ecumenical councils of Lyons and Florence.”
The summer session of the Moscow Patriarchate’ Holy Synod is usually held toward the end of July. The Holy Synod will presumably issue a statement with respect to its position on the documents adopted by the Crete Council.
It has been reported that the Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox Church has requested that the Ecumenical Patriarch accept the Church as part of the Mother Church of Constantinople with the rights of the Ukrainian Church with its center at the Kyiv Metropolis until 1686 and in accordance with the decisions of the Holy and Great Orthodox Council on the island of Crete in 2016 on granting autonomous [not autocephalous] status to the churches. http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/orthodox/uapc/63919/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
1 July 2016: Antioch states its position
Today the Patriarchate of Antioch posted in Arabic, Greek, and English a long statement relating to the Crete Council. http://www.antiochpatriarchate.org/en/page/statement-of-the-secretariat-of-the-holy-synod-of-antioch-balamand-27-june-2016/1448/ The statement is dated Monday, June 27, which was the day following the final Liturgy of the Crete Council. The actual decision at the end of the statement is as follows:
The Fathers of the Holy Synod unanimously decided the following:
1. Consider the meeting in Crete as a preliminary meeting towards the Pan-Orthodox Council, thus to consider its documents not final, but still open to discussion and amendment upon the convocation of the Great Panorthodox Council in the presence and participation of all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches.
- Refuse assigning a conciliar character to any Orthodox meeting that does not involve all the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, and to underline that the principle of unanimity remains the essential foundation for the common Orthodox relationships. Thus, the Church of Antioch refuses that the meeting in Crete be called a “Great Orthodox Council” or a “Great Holy Council.”
- Affirm that whatever was issued in the meeting in Crete, of decisions and other things, is non-binding, by any means, to the Patriarchate of Antioch and all the East.
- Commission the “Committee for the Follow-Up on the Council’s Issues” to study the results and consequences of the meeting in Crete and offer a detailed report to the Holy Synod of Antioch in its next meeting.
- Send a letter about the decision of the Holy Synod of Antioch to all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, as well as to the civil and religious authorities abroad.
- Call upon the faithful to accompany the fathers of the Holy Synod of Antioch by praying for the preservation and the total manifestation of the unity of the Orthodox Christian witness in today’s world.
In the long statement, there is no analysis of the specific terms of the finalized six documents. Rather, Antioch continues to stress the necessity for the participation of all of the 14 Local Orthodox Churches in any pan-Orthodox Council. Unlike Bulgaria and Georgia, Antioch cannot be considered a conservative Church. For example, in its decision of June 6, 2016, Antioch stated that the Council should consider the issue of the “Church Calendar and unifying the date of celebrating Easter.” http://www.antiochpatriarchate.org/en/page/1436/ In contrast, Moscow is against any changes that would affect its Julian calendar. Patriarch Kirill expressed Moscow’s strong support for dropping the subject of the calendar from the Council’s agenda, and he was successful in having its dropped from the agenda. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=12696 As another example, Antioch, unlike Bulgaria and Georgia, has been very active in the ecumenical movement. Antioch’s primary objection is not based on supporting a conservative position, but rather on Qatar.
The decision by Antioch earlier this week is absolutely no surprise. In my opinion, Antioch believes that the only way to cause Jerusalem to retreat from Qatar is for Antioch to say that there can be no pan-Orthodox Council without Antioch’s participation and to condition its participation in the pan-Orthodox Council on a recognition of Antioch’s jurisdiction over Qatar. If Antioch now recognizes that the Council has already occurred, its “leverage” would no longer exist. Therefore, Antioch must say that the pan-Orthodox Council has not yet occurred, but is still a future event.
Interestingly, the convening of another council could be the first step in holding Orthodox councils on a regular basis. As you know, the Message of the Crete Council stated that “the proposal was made for the Holy and Great Council to become a regular Institution to be convened every seven or ten years.”
The Patriarchate of Bulgaria has issued a statement that as soon as the documents of the Crete Council are translated into Bulgarian, its Holy Synod will made a careful review of the documents and will express its position with respect to them. http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=207760 With respect to Georgia, Patriarch Ilia has sent a letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch expressing sadness over the terrorist attack at the Istanbul airport (http://patriarchate.ge/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/pdf), but I have seen no statement from Georgia yet with respect to the final documents of the Crete Council.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
30 June 2016: New Orthodox Chair for Catholic-Orthodox Dialogue
As you know, there has been a long (since 1977) practice of the Ecumenical Patriarch to send a delegation to Rome for the feast of Saints Peter and Paul and for the Pope to send a delegation to Constantinople for the feast of St. Andrew. This year is no exception. The Orthodox delegation that met with Pope Francis yesterday was headed by Metropolitan Methodios of Boston and included Archbishop Job of Telmessos. The English translation of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter to the Pope can be read at https://zenit.org/articles/ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomews-letter-to-pope-francis-on-feast-of-sts-peter-and-paul/ After the meeting at the Vatican yesterday morning, Pope Francis invited the Orthodox delegation to lunch. You can see a very brief video of the morning meeting at http://www.romereports.com/2016/06/28/pope-meets-with-delegation-of-patriarch-bartholomew-after-the-pan-orthodox-council . The complete text (in Italian and English) of the Pope’s address to the delegation can be read at http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2016/06/28/0481/01113.html . I found especially interesting the following remarks by the Pope:
Dear Metropolitan Methodius, I wish to express to you my appreciation for the fruitful work accomplished by the North American Orthodox-Catholic Theological Consultation of which Your Eminence is Co-President. Instituted more than fifty years ago, this Consultation has proposed significant reflections on central theological issues for our Churches, thus fostering the development of excellent relations between Catholics and Orthodox on that continent. In this regard, I rejoice that this coming September the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church will meet once again. The task of this Commission is indeed precious; let us pray the Lord for the fruitfulness of its work. I also offer a special remembrance in my prayers for you, dear Archbishop Job, appointed the Orthodox Co-President of the Commission, and I express my profound gratitude to Metropolitan Ioannis of Pergamum, who has long carried out this delicate task with dedication and competence.
What caught my attention was that Metropolitan Ioannis is retiring as the Orthodox head of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and will be replaced by Archbishop Job of Telmessos. Metropolitan Ioannis assumed the Orthodox leadership of the Commission at the Belgrade plenary in 2006. Prior to this, there had been a six-year hiatus in the dialogue following the extremely difficult plenary which was held at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Maryland (USA) in July 2000 and which was devoted to the topic of "Ecclesiological and Canonical Implications of Uniatism.” Metropolitan Ioannis is one of the world’s most prominent Orthodox theologians and certainly deserves many thanks for his ten-year leadership.
For those of you who watched the press conferences in Crete last week, Archbishop Job is no stranger. He was the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the Council’s Secretariat and was the chief spokesperson at the press conferences. Archbishop Job (Getcha) was born of a Ukrainian family in Montreal, Canada in 1974 (so he is 42) and was a member of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada (Ecumenical Patriarchate). In 1996 he became a monk and moved to France in 1998. He received a doctorate degree from the St. Sergius Orthodox Theological Institute in Paris and subsequently taught there. In 2003 he transferred to the Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of Russian Tradition in Western Europe (the Patriarchate of Constantinople). From 2013 to 2015 he was the Archbishop of the Exarchate. Subsequently, he became the Permanent Representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the World Council of Churches, the position that he now holds. He has been a member of the St. Irenaeus International Joint Group for Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches since 2003.
As some of you probably know, Archbishop Job had a difficult experience when he headed the Exarchate. http://www.la-croix.com/Religion/Actualite/L-archeveche-russe-orthodoxe-profondement-divise-2015-07-22-1337194?xtor=EPR-9-[1300873259 He sought to make major changes in the parishes and at the St. Sergius Institute, and there were very vocal protests against his actions. Interestingly the Exarchate had operated for many years with substantial lay and clergy participation in its decision-making, patterned after the major changes made by the Moscow Patriarchate’s Council of 1917 - 1918. It appears that Archbishop Job believed that Orthodox ecclesiology requires more control by the bishop. Presumably, his position on this issue does not affect his ability to chair the Orthodox side of the Orthodox – Catholic dialogue. I certainly hope and pray that Our Lord will bless Archbishop Job in this new responsibility.
As far as I can determine, the adopted documents of the Crete Council have not generated a flurry of critical comments on the Russian Internet relating to the substantive terms of the documents. Father Nikolay Balashov at the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Relations told the Interfax news agency that careful study of the documents is needed and that the Holy Synod will probably express the position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the documents at its next meeting (presumably in July). http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=13052 . On another subject relating to the Council, Pravaslavie.ru has posted an article stating that seven of the individual delegates at the Crete Council refused to sign the document on the relations of the Orthodox Church to the rest of the Christian world. http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/94770.htm Five are from the Church of Cyprus. They obviously constitute a minority of the total Cyprus delegation of 16 bishops and the primate. They probably are the same minority group that refused to meet Pope Benedict on his visit to Cyprus in 2010. Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol, the most well-known of the minority group, had previously referred to the dialogue between Orthodox and other faiths as “satanic.” The article reported that Bishop Irinej of Backa (Serbian Patriarchate) also refused to sign the document. This surprised me as Bishop Irinej has been a very active member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Bishop Irinej even attended the Catholic Mass today in Belgrade on the occasion of the feast of Sts. Peter and Paul. http://kc.org.rs/apostolski-nuncije-sluzio-svecanu-liturgiju-u-crkvi-sv-petra/ Maybe the report that he refused to sign is in error.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
27 June 2016: Pope's reaction on Crete
Pope Francis, on his return flight from Armenia today, answered the questions of journalists. http://www.lastampa.it/2016/06/26/vaticaninsider/eng/the-vatican/the-pope-on-brexit-no-to-balcanisation-but-we-need-a-new-european-union-vj94ZnoFQTdjk8kQK4BZpK/pagina.html The following is one question and answer:
You encouraged the pan-Orthodox Council in Crete. What is your assessment of it?
"Positive! It marks a step forward, it was not 100%, but still a step forward. The reasons some Churches gave for their absence are sincere, and they are things that can be resolved. The four primates that did not go wanted the Council to be held at a later stage. But you do what you can with your first step. Children, for example, move like cats when they take their first steps, then they walk. The sheer fact that these Churches held a meeting to look each other in the eye, pray together and talk, is very positive. I am grateful to the Lord. There will be more present at the next meeting."
I appears that the Pope’s visit to Armenia was very successful. He was side-by-side with Patriarch Catholicos Karenkin II for much of the visit. I was touched by the remarks of Karenkin at the Pope’s Mass at Gyumri. https://www.armradio.am/en/2016/06/25/message-of-his-holiness-karekin-ii-at-holy-mass-in-gyumri/ The Catholicos related the following history:
During the Soviet years of atheism churches were being destroyed or shut in Armenia, and only through the zealous resistance of our people, the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin and a few other churches were still open. During that time, Gyumri’s church of the Holy Mother of God (Yotverk) opened its maternal bosom and became a haven and a place of prayer for all the Christians of the Northern districts of Armenia and of the ethnically Armenian towns and villages of Georgia, regardless of their national identity or what denomination they belonged to, may they be Armenian Apostolic, Catholic or Eastern Orthodox. The Northern apse of Yotverk church was turned into a place of prayer for the Catholic faithful where the crucifixion statue in the Catholic tradition, brought from the Catholic Church of Arevik village, was erected and is maintained to this day. While the Southern apse was provided to the Russian Orthodox where in a most honorable place, the Russian icon of Saint Nicholas the Wonderworker was placed. Thus, Gyumri and the church of the Holy Mother of God (Yotverk) became a tangible provider and preacher for ecumenism, years before the modern definition of ecumenism was established.
I now have had a little time to compare the pre-Conciliary draft of the document on Orthodox relations to the rest of the Christian world (https://www.holycouncil.org/-/preconciliar-relations?inheritRedirect=true ) with the final document (https://www.holycouncil.org/-/rest-of-christian-world?inheritRedirect=true ). A word-by-word comparison is not meaningful because the two documents reflect a different translation with different words and sentence structures. However, I found (although I might have missed some) the following substantive changes:
Para. 5: Substitute “with the aim of seeking the unity of all Christians” for “to reclaim the lost unity of Christians”
Para. 6: Substitute “In accordance with the ontological nature of the Church, her unity can never be perturbed. In spite of this, the Orthodox Church accepts the historical name of other non-Orthodox Christian Churches and Confessions that are not in communion with her,…” for “According to the Church’s ontological nature, her unity can never be shattered. The Orthodox Church acknowledges the historical existence of other Christian Churches and Confessions that are not in communion with her…”
Para. 9: Add the following sentence: “The bi-lateral and multi-lateral theological dialogues need to be subject to periodical evaluations on a pan-Orthodox level.”
Para. 16: Substitute “The WCC is a structured inter-Christian body, despite the fact that it does not include all non-Orthodox Christian Churches and Confessions” for “The WCC is a structured inter-Christian body, despite the fact that it does not include all Christian Churches and Confessions.”
Para. 19: Substitute “condition of their participation in the WCC the foundational article of its Constitution, in accordance with which its members may only be those who believe in” for “participation in the WCC must be grounded in the principle article of its Constitution, which affords membership only to those Churches and Confessions that recognize…”
Para. 19: Add the follow two sentences from the 1950 Toronto Statement: “No Church is obliged to change her ecclesiology on her accession to the Council... Moreover, from the fact of its inclusion in the Council, it does not ensue that each Church is obliged to regard the other Churches as Churches in the true and full sense of the term.”
Para. 20: Substitute “The prospects for conducting theological dialogues between the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world” for “The prospects for conducting theological dialogues between the Orthodox Church and other Christian Churches and Confessions” Para. 22 Substitute “the preservation of the true Orthodox faith is ensured only through the conciliar system, which has always represented the highest authority in the Church on matters of faith and canonical decrees. (Canon 6 2nd Ecumenical Council)” for “ only conciliarity—always the suitable and final judge in matters of faith in the Church—can preserve the authentic Orthodox faith.”
Para. 23: Substitute “eschewing every act of proselytism, uniatism, or other provocative act of inter-confessional competition” for “rejects all forms of proselytism and every offensive act of inter-confessional competition”
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
26 June 2016: Final Council documents posted
All finalized Council documents, including the Encyclical and Message, are now posted in English, Greek, Russian, and French at https://www.holycouncil.org/.
25 June 2016 (2): Sixth and final day
The final and closing session of the Council has now ended in Crete. As you may have experienced, the livestreaming of the session was interrupted because parts of the session were considered a closed working session. The Romanian Patriarchate has been the first to report on the closing session. http://basilica.ro/sesiunea-festiva-de-incheiere-a-lucrarilor-sfantului-si-marelui-sinod-patriarhul-ecumenic-impreuna-am-scris-istorie/ The article confirms that agreement was reached by the Council bishops on the document on the relations of the Orthodox Church to the rest of the Christian world. The Ecumenical Patriarch stated in his final address that “the grace and enlightenment of the Holy Spirit, which fills the entire order of the Church, led to unanimity.” He concluded his remarks by stating: " God of peace is with us! Christ is in our midst!" The Ecumenical Patriarch stated that Metropolitan Jeremias of Switzerland (Ecumenical Patriarchate) will read at the Liturgy tomorrow (Sunday) the message of the Council to the world.
The Church of Greece has prepared a press release on the solution that was reached on the issue of whether non-Orthodox denominations constitute “churches.” http://www.ecclesia.gr/epikairotita/main_epikairotita_next.asp?id=1868 This release is also described in French at http://orthodoxie.com/la-proposition-de-leglise-orthodoxe-de-grece-au-sujet-du-texte-relations-de-leglise-orthodoxe-avec-le-reste-du-monde-chretien-a-ete-acceptee-par-le-concile/ . In addition, Romfea.gr has reported on this. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/9046-ekklisia-tis-ellados-idou-pou-aposkopei-i-protasi-mas Using the Google translation tool, my understanding of the amendment is as follows: The second sentence of paragraph 6 of the draft documents began: “The Orthodox Church acknowledges the historical existence of other Christian Churches and Confessions that are not in communion with her…” This is now changed to read: “The Orthodox Church accepts the historical appellations of other heterodox Christian Churches and Confessions that are not in communion with her…”
It has been reported that Archbishop Ieronymos of Greece proposed a resolution, which was adopted, that condemned the Unia as a method foreign to the Orthodox spirit. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/9050-arxiepiskopos-ieronumos-na-katadikastei-i-ounia (Greek); http://orthodoxie.com/larcheveque-dathenes-jerome-a-demande-la-condamnation-de-luniatisme-par-le-concile/ (French)
A list of all of the Council delegates has now been posted. https://www.holycouncil.org/delegations
The official websites of the Moscow Patriarchate have refrained from commenting on the daily events at the Council. However, the DECR has posted the letter from the Ecumenical Patriarch (with the approval of the Council) to Patriarch Kirill expressing sadness over the recent tragedy involving the death of the children in Karelia. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/06/24/news133212/
The closing Sunday Liturgy will be livestreamed tomorrow at 08:00 GMT+3 (1:00 a.m New York time) at https://www.holycouncil.org/live .
When one considers the gloom that existed on June 13 (just 12 days ago) after Moscow announced that it would not go to Crete and when many (including myself) expected that the Council was doomed, the completion of the Council today with complete unanimity by ten of the Local Churches with respect to all of the six draft documents is truly amazing. It may even be a miracle.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
25 June 2016 (1): Day Five in Crete
Today’s (Friday’s) daily press conference can be viewed at https://www.holycouncil.org/-/press-briefing-friday-june-24-2016-holy-and-great-council . There were several statements in the conference which caught my attention. First, Archbishop Job stated that the approved documents will be released “as soon as possible” after the conclusion of the Council. Previously, it was stated that the approved documents would be released as soon as they were signed. Second, Archbishop Job stated that the general session was delayed this morning so that the primates could meet to review the “Encyclical of the Holy and Great Council as well as the little message which will be released at the end of the Council.” To the best of my knowledge, all previous references were solely to the Message at the end of the Council. Perhaps the term “encyclical” is now being used because an “encyclical” may represent a higher level of teaching authority than a “message.” It is also possible that the encyclical will only be approved and signed by the primates. Third, Archbishop Job clarified that the figure of 290 delegates at the Council, given at yesterday’s press conference, included both bishops and non-voting advisors. Fourth, Archbishop Job stated that the approved document on the Diaspora prohibits future bishops in the diaspora from taking the exact title of their predecessors. Perhaps this is an attempt to discourage in the future two or more Orthodox bishops in the same location with the same title (e.g. three Orthodox “Bishops of Chicago”). Fifth, Archbishop Job stated that the document on Marriage will be signed shortly. This indicates that a consensus has been reached on this document and its amendments. Sixth, the bishops are now discussing the document on the Relations of the Orthodox Church to the Rest of the Christian World.
The press office of the Council has now posted two news bulletins in English. The first bulletin (https://www.holycouncil.org/-/news-bulletin-number-1?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2Fhome) includes the following statement: During the afternoon session [on Monday] 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. Second bulletin (https://www.holycouncil.org/-/news-bulletin-number-2?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2Fhome ) related to Tuesday’s session. It included the statement: He [the Ecumenical Patriarch] also announced the amendment proposals relating to the text about the Mission 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. The second bulletin also discusses the need to make certain changes in the document relating to the Orthodox diaspora.
There are now some reports on today’s session which was devoted to the most disputed document, Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World. Not surprisingly, the big issue is whether the term “church” can be applied to non-Orthodox denominations. Amen.gr has given a number of details relating to the debate. http://www.amen.gr/article/ypsiloi-tonoi-sti-syzitisi-gia-tis-sxeseis-tis-orthodoksias-me-ton-ypoloipo-xristianiko-kosmo It described the debate as “high pitched” and states that it relates to the manner of characterizing the Roman Catholic Church. It appears that the Church of Greece was the most vocal advocate in favor of using the term “religious communities” rather than “churches” in the text. There was also a suggestion by some bishops that the term “heterodox Church” be used. It is reported that Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus stated that it should not be possible for the Church of Greece through its inflexible position to hold the Council hostage on this issue. Archbishop Ieronymos of Greece then requested that these words be retracted and said that other words could have been used with the same meaning. Chrysostomos responded that the draft text had been discussed for 40-50 years without objection until now and suggested that the Church of Greece assist in finding a mutually agreeable solution. Metropolitan Ioannis of Pergamon (Ecumenical Patriarchate) pointed out that the Orthodox have used the word “Church” for 1,000 years in referring to Catholics. The Ecumenical Patriarch requested that Metropolitan Ioannis and Metropolitan Hierotheos of Navpaktos (Church of Greece) work together to submit alternative solutions to be presented to the Council tomorrow morning. (The final working sessions of the Council are from 9:30 to 13:30 tomorrow.) The primate of Alexandria spontaneously interjected during the debate that in view of the hostile environment and killings of Christians in Africa, there is a need for constant cooperation with other Christian churches. According to Amen.gr, the Serbian Patriarchate suggested that the document be deferred to a reconvening of the Council at a later date so that the four absent Local Churches may also participate in the debate. This was opposed by the Ecumenical Patriarch.
The National Herald has also posted an article in Greek on today’s events. http://www.ekirikas.com/%CE%B4%CF%85%CF%83%CE%BA%CE%BF%CE%BB%CE%AF%CE%B5%CF%82-%CE%BA%CE%B1%CE%B9-%CE%B5%CE%BC%CF%80%CE%BB%CE%BF%CE%BA%CE%AD%CF%82-%CF%83%CF%84%CE%B7%CE%BD-%CE%B1%CE%B3%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CE%BA%CE%B1%CE%B9-%CE%BC/ It states that Romania, Poland, Serbia, and Greece expressed concerns about the use of the term “church” to non-Orthodox Christians. Serbia has posted in the last few minutes a written report on today’s proceeding. http://www.spc.rs/sr/mitropolit_porfirije_peti_radni_dan_sabora The report is generally positive on the workings of the Council. The article concluded: “Almost all of the churches had objections to the proposed text. Some of these churches have formulated their objections in writing. And each of these objections were discussed and considered by the Council. Some of the remarks were taken into account, some of them, however, in a modified form, but the mostly original text that we had in hand underwent a very big change, and we can rightly say that it is greatly improved.”
The National Herald has posted today a very interesting English-language interview of Archbishop Demetrios of America (Ecumenical Patriarchate). http://www.thenationalherald.com/128075/ He states that the Council “really is a great experience.” He adds that “we are experiencing absolute freedom of opinion without limits, without difficulties, which provides great spiritual comfort. People do not feel tense, they can speak freely. Nobody has been interrupted or accused for something they say.” Also, the Ecumenical Patriarch “is chairing the Synod in a truly masterly way because he listens without interrupting, he intervenes in very proper manner and thus the whole thing is proceeding without incidents or bumps.”
The closing session will be held tomorrow at 17:00 GMT+3 (10:00 New York time). You may watch it live at https://www.holycouncil.org/live.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
24 June 2016: Fourth Day in Crete
You may watch today’s (Thursday’s) press conference at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9olvBGmiF2g . It appears that discussions are now complete and amendments have been adopted for the following documents: Mission, Autonomy, Diaspora, and Fasting. At the press conference, it was explained that each of the approved documents must be signed not only by the primates but also by all of the Council delegates who number approximately 290. For a single document, a delegate must sign each of the four official-language translations. The signing is thus a time-consuming process and explains the reason why none of the final documents has yet (to my knowledge) to be released to the public. At the press conference today, the press officer of the Serbian Patriarchate said that the Patriarchate “was very happy to be here.”
Today the Council discussed the document on marriage. As you recall, the Patriarchate of Georgia voiced in May a strong objection to this document. http://patriarchate.ge/geo/minutes-of-the-session-of/ Georgia is especially concerned about Article II, para. 5, subpara. 1 and would delete the part which I have highlighted in bold. The draft paragraph provides: “Marriage between Orthodox and non-Orthodox Christians is forbidden and is not blessed in the Church, according to canonical akribeia (Canon 72 of the Quinisext Ecumenical Council). However, such a marriage can be blessed by dispensation and out of love, on the condition that the children born of this marriage will be baptized and raised within the Orthodox Church.” Thus, Georgia would prohibit the blessing of any mixed marriage.
The Patriarch of Georgia has sent a letter, dated today, to the Ecumenical Patriarch in response to the latter’s letter of June 17. Georgia has just posted the text of this letter. http://patriarchate.ge/geo/saqartvelos-katolikos-patriarqis-werili-msoflio/ A French translation can be read at http://orthodoxie.com/le-patriarcat-de-georgie-maintient-son-refus-de-participer-au-concile/ . The letter states that “we follow the progress of work of the Council and we hope that with God's grace its final results will be accepted by the Church in its fullness.” The letter then stresses the continuous opposition of the Georgian Patriarchate to the document on marriage. The letter appears to request that the marriage document not be subject to discussion at the Council as there has not been a consensus to submit it to the Council. Finally, the letter expresses the hope that problems will not be created within the Church which will break the unity of the Church.
The Serbian Patriarchate has now posted its own summary of the fourth day of the Council. http://www.spc.rs/sr/mitropolit_porfirije_chetvrti_radni_dan_sabora It states that all participants signed today the documents on the Diaspora and Autonomy. A significant part of this morning’s debate related to mixed marriages between Orthodox and non-Orthodox. The Google translation appears to indicate that it was decided that an individual bishop, such as in the Americas or Australia, should be able to apply the principle of “economy” where he believes that it would promote the salvation of the couple. Presumably, this would allow bishops in such areas as Georgia to refuse to allow the blessing any mixed marriages.
One of you have kindly brought to my attention that I had incorrectly described yesterday the statements by the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Ecumenical Patriarchate with respect to the “New Lands,” located in the nation of Greece. I incorrectly deciphered the Google translation of the Greek-language report. The National Herald has now posted an English-language article which provides the exact text of the Patriarchate’s statement in this regard. http://www.thenationalherald.com/127869/ The statement reads as follows: “Today, Wednesday June 22, 2016, debated before the Holy and Great Synod was the issue of Autonomy, on the relevant proposals such as amendments of the Church of Greece, His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew reassured that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has no intention to grant autonomy to the Metropolises of the so-called New Lands and that they always fall canonically and spiritually under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the administration has been assigned provisionally to the Autocephalous Church of Greece, which His All Holiness has given thanks for such a service to the Mother Church.” The exact words of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Council were quoted by the website of the Romanian Patriarchate. His words ended, “it is neither my intention nor of the Patriarchate in general to take them [the New Lands] back.” http://basilica.ro/discutii-importante-in-a-treia-zi-de-lucrari-sinodale-patriarhia-ecumenica-nu-doreste-autonomia-teritoriilor-noi/ Presently, the New Lands are under the spiritual and canonical jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but administration of the metropolitan dioceses in that area is vested in the Church of Greece. If the New Lands were given “autonomy,” the Church of Greece would be denied its powers of administration, while the Ecumenical Patriarch would still retain certain rights such as the right to approve the selection of the primate of the autonomous church. Much to the relief of the Church of Greece, the Ecumenical Patriarch has now given assurances that such autonomy will not be given to the New Lands.
Pope Francis flies to Armenia tomorrow (Friday) morning. http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2016/05/13/160513d.html Before leaving he recorded a message to the Armenian people. The full text of Pope’s message can be read at http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/06/22/pope_francis_video_message_to_people_of_armenia/1239268
In the next two days, the Council in Crete will presumably be discussing the document on relations with the rest of the Christian world (the most disputed document) and also the Message.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
23 June 2016: Day Three in Crete
Another daily press conference was held this afternoon (Wednesday) in Crete. You may watch the entire press conference in English and Greek at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWg2WbUKBA8 (1:12). At the press conference, the journalist are informed of the documents presently being considered. Amendments are mentioned, but the spokespersons decline to specify the exact nature of the amendments. Presumably, this is done to prevent the participating bishops from being subject to outside pressures and lobbying. It is apparent that a document goes through various stages at the Council. I understand these various stages as follows: (1) the document is considered by the bishops, various amendments are proposed, and the amendments are accepted or rejected; (2) the secretariat then formulates the exact phrasing of the amendments in each of the official languages and these are incorporated into the document; (3) the complete amended document is then approved by the bishops; (4) the approved text is signed, presumably by the primates; (5) the final text is released to the public. Aside from information from the press conference and the Greek websites, the Serbian Patriarchate has also issued its summary of today’s events. http://www.spc.rs/sr/patrijarh_irinej_nachalstvovao_liturgijom_na_svetog_kirila_aleksandrijskog
The document on autonomy was discussed at this morning’s session, and the document on fasting was discussed at this evening’s session. Archbishop Job stated at today’s press conference that the finalized revised versions of the documents on mission and diaspora were reviewed by the bishops this morning and that the document on the diaspora would be signed this evening. In connection with the document on autonomy, the Ecumenical Patriarch confirmed that the Ecumenical Patriarchate did not intend to change the autonomous status of the “New Lands” [the northern part of mainland Greece acquired by the Greek state following the 1912-1913 Balkan Wars]. The head of the press office of the Church of Greece has stated that the Church of Greece is completely satisfied with this statement and that it removes a major source of misunderstanding and completely dispels the clouds which existed between the two Churches on this issue. http://www.romfea.gr/ekklisia-ellados/9003-x-konidaris-gennaia-parembasi-tou-oikoumenikou-patriarxi
Romfea.gr has an interesting account of the debate this evening on the document relating to fasting. http://www.romfea.gr/diafora/9006-me-to-thema-tis-nisteias-asxolithike-i-agia-sunodos One of the subjects of discussion related to whether exceptions should be made for people in undeveloped countries, especially for those who face extreme climate conditions. During this evening’s session, Archimandrite Tikhon, Abbot of Stavronikita Monastery of Mount Athos, who is at the Council as a special consultant, wished to speak on the subject of fasting. However, the rules of the Council only permit bishops to speak. The Ecumenical Patriarch devised an ingenious solution. He allowed the Abbot to address the Council after the evening session had been formally closed, but before the bishops departed from the hall.
At today’s briefing, Archbishop Job especially stressed the spirit prevailing at the Council. He stated that the work was being conducted “in good spirit, in brotherly love, in the spirit of unity, of listening to each other, and with great and interesting discussions.” This was also stressed by Metropolitan Alexandros of Nigeria, the press officer of the Patriarchate of Alexandria. He stated that the spirit at the Council has been “really wonderful” and that we had not expected “that it would be so calm and collected as it has proved to be.” He also referred to a “spirit of cooperation, concord, and warmth.” Both younger and older bishops relate to each other, and their views are listened to and respected by all. Metropolitan Alexandros gives credit to the Ecumenical Patriarch in helping to instill this spirit. You can hear the Metropolitan’s comments about the atmosphere of the Council at minutes 9-16 of the video above. I have also read other comments relating to the very good atmosphere. In my opinion, all of this is evidence of the Holy Spirit at work.
I have also been impressed by the apparent ease in when amendments to documents have been made at the Council. Because the rules provide that an amendment to a draft document can only be made if a complete consensus exists, one would think that it would be very difficult to make any amendment. Bulgaria gave as one of its reasons for refusing to attend the Council “the impossibility under the ratified rules of the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church of editing texts that are being discussed during the work of the Council.” http://www.pravmir.com/resolution-of-the-holy-synod-of-the-bulgarian-orthodox-church-regarding-the-pan-orthodox-council/ The Moscow Patriarchate in its resolution of June 3 urged the “holding an extraordinary pan-Orthodox pre-Council conference [prior to June 10] to address the present situation and examine the amendments to the Council’s documents presented by Orthodox Churches with the aim to work out agreed proposals.” https://mospat.ru/en/2016/06/03/news132577/ I personally believe that Moscow urged this pre-Council conference, in part, because of its belief that it would be difficult to adopt any amendments during the Council itself. Maybe it is the Spirit, now prevailing at the Council, which has made the amendment process not difficult.
The Council still must discuss the documents on marriage and the relationship to the rest of the Christian world as well as the Message.
On a complete different topic, the Vatican’s Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin is just completing his visit to Ukraine. There are interesting reports on his visit with All-Ukrainian Council of Churches (http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/confessional/auccro/63759/) and on his meeting with Catholic seminarians in Lviv (http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=13044) .
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
22 June 2016: Day Two in Crete
Day Two of the Council has now ended in Crete. Yesterday evening, the Council discussed the document The Mission of the Church in Today’s World. A small number of amendments were approved, and these were submitted to the Secretariat for incorporation into the document. https://www.orthodoxcouncil.org/-/holy-and-great-council-convenes?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2F Romfea reports that the Church of Greece was the only Church to call for an amendment of the text. http://www.romfea.gr/ekklisia-ellados/8978-enimerosi-tis-ekklisias-tis-ellados-apo-tin-kriti Two of its amendments were accepted. Romfea describes the exact nature of these two amendments which are in paragraph 3 of the Section 1 and in paragraph 1 of Section 2 of the text. The document will be made public after it is formally signed.
Today the Council moved to the second document on the agenda, The Orthodox Diaspora. This short document, which was previously unanimously adopted by the primates, essentially establishes “Episcopal Assemblies” in the Americas, Western Europe, and Oceania. It is a temporary and limited solution to the very serious problem of many Local Orthodox Churches having their own bishop in the same geographic area. This is contrary to the established Orthodox doctrine that there should be only one bishop for each place. Amen.gr has reported that entire day (Tuesday) was devoted to the subject of the diaspora and that discussions on this topic will continue tomorrow (Wednesday). http://www.amen.gr/article/tha-synexistei-kai-avrio-i-syzitisi-gia-tin-orthodoksi-diaspora In my opinion, the very extensive debate on this issue does not reflect disagreement with respect to Episcopal Assemblies, but rather a sense that more should be done with respect to the diaspora problem at this time. According at Amen.gr, one of the proposals relates to the title of bishops so that the wording of titles does not conflict. Another is a provision that will condemn ethnocentrism.
A press conference was also held this afternoon. You may watch the entire conference at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vd1-4V8rg0Q (1:14) . Of necessity, the conference moves slowly as everything must be stated in both English and Greek. There were a few points that caught my attention. First, Archbishop Job defended the position that all of the 14 Local Churches had agreed at the January synaxis to hold the Council in June. He admitted that Antioch had not formally signed this decision and also failed to sign two other documents (marriage and rules). However, he stated that this was simply part of Antioch’s protest relating to the Qatar dispute and that Antioch was not opposed to the substance of the decision or documents. He says that this lack of opposition is reflected in the minutes of the synaxis. Furthermore, Antioch participated in the preparations relating to the Council until the very end. At the end of the conference, Archbishop Job made the additional argument that in view of the January consensus to hold the Council in June, this decision in turn could only be overturned if there is complete consensus by all of the 14 Local Churches to postpone the Council. Second, it was made very clear during the conference that the draft rules of the Council have been adopted. Third, the Message of the Council has not yet been discussed by the Council.
In reading the various interviews, I have the definite impression that the participating bishops are finding the Council a very valuable experience. Romfea has reported that a Serbian bishop has stated: “We are pleased with how the Holy Synod is proceeding, so there is no reason for the Serbian Church to withdraw." http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/8981-i-serbiki-ekklisia-den-prokeitai-na-apoxorisei-apo-tin-kriti I believe that the real historical legacy of this Council will not be the individual documents, but rather a decision by the bishops that this synodal practice on the universal level is so valuable that it should in the future be a permanent, regular, and periodic part of the life of the Orthodox Church as a whole.
Lastly, the conservative and very popular Russian website has posted an English-language report on some of the terms of draft Message. http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/94479.htm The draft Message has not been made public so I have no way of knowing whether the report is true. The article states that the draft was prepared largely by Serbian and Greek theologians. It states that the draft recognizes four additional councils as “Ecumenical Councils” -- the councils in 879-880, 1341-1351, 1642, and 1672. Personally, I had no idea how such recognition would affect the Catholic – Orthodox dialogue. However, I do have one observation. The drafts of the six documents that are being reviewed have been subject for review by the Local Orthodox Churches for decades. However, the Message has just been drafted by a small committee in the last view weeks, and the draft has not been made public. One wonders if this allows sufficient time for study and deliberation for such a major decision by the bishops this week.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
21 June 2016: Day One completed
The first day of the Council in Crete is now completed. A video of the entire morning session (3 hours) can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U104kDhi2cw . Many photos of today’s opening session can be seen at https://www.holycouncil.org/photos?p_p_id=flickr_WAR_flickrportlet&p_p_lifecycle=0&p_p_state=normal&p_p_mode=view&p_p_col_id=column-1&p_p_col_count=1&_flickr_WAR_flickrportlet_action=openSet&_flickr_WAR_flickrportlet_id=72157669480271551 At the beginning, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew read to the Council the negative responses of Moscow and Antioch to the appeals of the ten primates made last Friday to come to the Council. Bulgaria and Georgia gave no response to Friday’s appeals. http://www.amen.gr/article/vartholomaios-eimetha-mia-ekklisia-na-mi-syberiferometha-os-omospondia-ekklision This morning each of the other nine primates also addressed the Council. The website of the Serbian Patriarchate reported on the remarks of Patriarch Irinej. It also noted that Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Bulgaria’s last monarch and prime minister between 2001 and 2005, was present at this session. The website of the Romanian Patriarchate summarized the morning proceedings including the remarks by Patriarch Daniel. http://basilica.ro/sesiune-inaugurala-a-sfantului-si-marelui-sinod-patriarhul-romaniei-apreciat-pentru-propuneri/ It stated that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew praised the proposal of Patriarch Daniel that the Local Orthodox Churches should hold conciliar meetings on a regular basis in the future. It also stated that between June 20 and June 25, the agenda of the Council will involve the following topics: (1) Orthodox Church's mission in the contemporary world; (2) Orthodox Diaspora; (3) How autonomy and its proclamation; (4) The sacrament of marriage and the impediments to it; (5) The importance of fasting and observance today; (6) Orthodox relations with the whole Christian world. If this is correct, it indicates that the Crete Council will not defer consideration of any of the draft documents but will consider even those documents to which certain Local Churches, including those absent, took exception.
After the morning session, a press conference was held. You can watch the 40-minute conference at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ykbr1UVQ_Gk . The conference was conducted in English and Greek. There were a few items of interest to me. The primate of Albania expressed in his opening remarks in the morning that the requirement of consensus has created problems and that perhaps majority vote should be used at councils instead. Also Archbishop Job (Ecumenical Patriarchate) at the press conference stated that the Ukrainian issue is not on the agenda.
Amen.gr has just reported that at the closed session this evening, the Council approved, with only minor changes, the document on the Orthodox Church’s mission. http://www.amen.gr/article/egrithike-to-proto-keimeno-apo-tin-agia-kai-megali-synodo This was one of the documents to which Georgia objected. (See Georgia’s objections at http://patriarchate.ge/geo/minutes-of-the-session-of/ ) During the session, Metropolitan Hierotheos of Navpaktos (Church of Greece) and Metropolitan Ioannis of Pergamon (Ecumenical Patriarchate) engaged in a spirited debate with respect to proposed amendments by the Church of Greece. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/8967-agia-sunodos-aporrifthike-i-tropologia-tis-ekklisias-tis-ellados As indicated, only minor amendments were in fact adopted. The document on mission was the first document of six listed on the website of the Romanian Patriarchate, so maybe the documents will be considered in the order reflected on that list.
Cardinal Koch and Bishop Farrell of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity were observers at this morning’s session. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/06/20/orthodox_leaders_hold_opening_session_of_council_in_crete/1238692 Pursuant to the earlier request of Moscow, the observers were not placed in a prominent position. You can see them in two of the photos in the second link above. In its report, Vatican Radio stated that Cardinal Koch “recalls how Pope Francis, in Evangelii Gaudium, speaks of the gifts that Catholics can receive from other Christian Churches, in particular the synodality of the Orthodox Church. He notes that the main issues of discussion between Catholics and Orthodox are centered on primacy and synodality, adding that he hopes there will be progress made at the next plenary session of the joint international commission for Catholic-Orthodox dialogue to be held in Italy in September.” During the morning session, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew expressed gratitude for the prayers of Pope Francis.
Videos of Sunday’s Liturgy and Vespers are now available for viewing: first part of Liturgy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i0bpsXVSLBg (1:30); homily of Ecumenical Patriarch https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AnHkx88uELU (:34); last part of Liturgy https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjW657zV41I (2:00); concluding vespers https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dLN13PzNSI8 (1:25).
The magazine First Things has posted today a very interesting article providing the detailed background of the Qatar dispute. http://www.firstthings.com/blogs/firstthoughts/2016/06/the-great-orthodox-council-antioch-is-different The authors are definitely in favor of Antioch. A statement by Jerusalem can be read at http://www.jp-newsgate.net/en/2015/07/10/15575 .
Lastly, the website http://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/ has done an excellent job of immediately posting many articles about the Council as they appear. The website http://byztex.blogspot.com/ has also provided very prompt reporting.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
19 June 2016: Sunday's developments in Crete
The Ecumenical Patriarch and nine other primates celebrated Orthros and the Liturgy for the feast of Pentecost at the Cathedral of St. Menas in Heraklion, Crete this morning (Sunday). A good collection of 57 photos of the event can be seen at https://www.flickr.com/photos/holycouncil/sets/72157669955126385/ The official English translation of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s homily can be read at https://www.holycouncil.org/web/ecumenical-patriarchate/-/2016-06-19-homily-pentecost?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2Fdocuments
It now appears that the telephone diplomacy with the four absent primates, initiated on Friday by the ten primates in Crete, has been unsuccessful. Obviously, the four were not present at the Liturgy today, and it does not appear that they will come to Crete for the sessions of the Council that begin on Monday. I suspect that the major roadblock is Antioch. Moscow has clearly indicated that it will not come unless all of the Local Churches, including Antioch, participate. Unfortunately, possible offers by the ten primates with respect to the Council’s agenda or rules cannot solve the jurisdictional dispute between Antioch and Jerusalem over Qatar. Perhaps as a partial justification for Antioch’s absence, a representative of Antioch has apparently provided Romfea.gr with a photocopy of a signature page of the document in which the Local Churches in January agreed to the convening of the Council in June. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/8929-ntokoumento-i-antioxeia-pote-de-sumfonise-na-ginei-i-agia-sunodos The article states: “The photograph published by Romfea.gr today is clear: Patriarch John of Antioch through his representative in Geneva in January never agreed to the participation of his Church in the Great Synod.” In this regard it is also interesting that Moscow’s Holy Synod in its decision on June 13 stated: “The same Synaxis approved by a majority vote the decision to convene the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church from June 18 to 27, 2016, in Crete. However, this decision, just as the Working Procedure of the Council and the Council’s draft document on ‘The Sacrament of Marriage and Impediments to It,’ was not signed by the Orthodox Church of Antioch. “
For me, an especially discouraging aspect is that the jurisdictional dispute over Qatar may continue for years in the future. The Local Orthodox Churches have been relying on a consensus rule, which require all Local Churches to agree. The consensus rule is simply incapable of resolving jurisdictional disputes where a solution does not in fact exist that would satisfy both contending parties. After more than three years of efforts, including much mediation, a mutually agreeable solution for Qatar has not been found, and it is therefore very unlikely that such a mutually agreeable solution exists. Jerusalem has absolutely no incentive to withdraw its metropolitan from Qatar. In fact, Jerusalem’s claim only becomes stronger as the years go by. If Moscow contends that it cannot participate in a pan-Orthodox Council until the Qatar dispute is settled, it may have a very long wait.
The opening session of the Council will begin tomorrow (Monday) at 11:00 AM GMT+3 (3 AM New York). You can watch it live at https://www.holycouncil.org/live . To the best of my knowledge, an agenda for the sessions has not yet been made public.
The following is a report from the English language service of Vatican Radio concerning the appeal for prayers for the Council made by Pope Francis today:
Speaking after the Angelus prayer to thousands of pilgrims and visitors gathered in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis noted that the Orthodox Church this Sunday marks the solemnity of Pentecost. "Let us unite ourselves in prayer with our Orthodox brothers", the Pope said, calling on the Holy Spirit to send "his gifts on the patriarchs, archbishops and bishops gathered at the Council". Pope Francis then led the crowd in the recitation of the Ave Maria, praying for all Orthodox Christians as their leaders meet to discuss some of the most pressing issues facing the world community today. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/06/19/pope_francis_prays_for_work_of_pan-orthodox_council/1238418
Yesterday, I referred to an interview of Metropolitan Gavrill of Lovec describing in detail the reasons for Bulgaria’s refusal to attend the Crete Council. An English translation of this interview is now available. http://theorthodoxchurch.info/blog/news/metropolitan-gabriel-we-decided-not-to-go-to-crete-independently-and-according-to-conscience/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
18 June 2016: Saturday's developments
As I reported yesterday, the ten primates in Crete decided at their Friday meeting to initiate telephone contacts with the four absent primates in an effort to persuade them to come to the Crete Council. They specifically invited the four primates to celebrate the Pentecost Liturgy with them this Sunday. The Liturgy will begin in St. Menas Cathedral in Heraklion, Crete at 9:00 a.m. Sunday (Orthros begins at 8:00 a.m.). It is now after 10:00 p.m., Saturday evening in Moscow, and there has been no announcement that Patriarch Kirill is traveling to Crete. It is therefore highly unlikely that Patriarch Kirill will be in Heraklion Sunday morning for the Pentecost Liturgy. However, there are indications that the telephone diplomacy is in fact occurring. In an interview with RIA-Novesti, Father Alexander Volvak, press secretary for Patriarch Kirill, stated on Friday evening that communications between Moscow and other Local Churches are now “very active,” but these cannot be given “any degree of publicity.” http://ria.ru/religion/20160617/1449030023.html RIA-Novesti also reported that although the ten primates at their meeting on Friday discussed the agenda of the Crete Council, the press office of the Council did not provide information on the subjects that will actually be discussed at the Council sessions. http://ria.ru/religion/20160617/1449042776.html One reason for this might be that the subjects to be discussed at the Crete Council are one of the key topics in the telephone diplomacy.
It should be noted that Moscow’s decision to come to Crete is probably dependent on what the other three absent Local Churches decide. In its prior statements, Moscow has made it very clear that the Holy and Great Council cannot be convened without the consent of all of the 14 Local Orthodox Churches. Thus, it is very unlikely that Moscow will come to Crete unless Bulgaria, Georgia, and Antioch also agree to come. Bulgaria and Georgia might be satisfied with an offer to limit the Crete Council to the Message and the approval of the undisputed documents with the disputed documents being subject to further pre-conciliar discussions before the reconvening of the second session of the Council. However, Antioch’s prime reason for non-attendance is the lack of resolution of its jurisdiction dispute with Jerusalem over Qatar. This dispute has remained unresolved for over three years in spite of extensive efforts by others to mediate the dispute. It is very difficult to believe that this dispute can now be resolve through telephone conversations in a period of a few days. Also, it is probably impossible for the Patriarch of Antioch to concelebrate the Pentecost Liturgy with the Patriarch of Jerusalem in view of the fact that Antioch has severed communion with Jerusalem. However, there still might be hope that although the four absent Churches do not participate in Sunday Liturgy (because of Antioch’s problem), they still might come for the formal opening of the Council on Monday. At least, that is my prayer.
You can watch the Orthros and Liturgy on Sunday via live streaming at https://www.holycouncil.org/live . The Crete time zone is UTC/GMT +3 hours. Thus, the Liturgy on Sunday will begin at: 9:00 a.m. for Moscow; 8:00 a.m. for Rome; 7:00 a.m. for London; 2:00 a.m. for New York; and 11:00 p.m. (Sat.) for San Francisco. Hopefully, you will also be able view the Liturgy at a later time on demand.
Early this evening the ten primates were welcomed in Heraklion. A video of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s remarks at Heraklion may be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-u7hO2jrL6Y A vesper service was then held in the Cathedral of St. Titus. http://www.amen.gr/article/live-o-esperinos-tis-pedikostis-ston-kathedriko-nao-tou-agiou-titou The Patriarch of Alexandria presided at the Liturgy this morning at the Holy Cathedral of the Annunciation in Kissamos. http://www.romfea.gr/diafora/8919-patriarxiki-theia-leitourgia-stin-kissamo .
The Bulgarian Patriarchate posted on June 16 an extensive interview of Metropolitan Gavrill of Lovec describing in detail the reasons for Bulgaria’s refusal to attend the Crete Council.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
17 June 2016: A change in direction?
It has been very encouraging to see that the absence of the four Local Orthodox Churches has not resulted in an exchange of harsh words and accusations. For example, today Patriarch Kirill sent a message to those Local Churches meeting in Crete. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/06/17/news133068/ The letter includes the following paragraph: I trust that if there is a good will, the meeting in Crete can become an important step towards overcoming the present differences. It can make its own contribution to the preparation of that Holy and Great Council which will unite all the Local Autocephalous Churches without exception and become a visible reflection of the unity of the Holy Orthodox Church of Christ, for which our predecessors, who blissfully passed away, prayed and which they expected. The Local Churches in Crete have in turn expressed their sadness at the absence of the four Local Churches and expressed their hope that the four Churches may still come to Crete. This was first expressed by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew upon his arrival in Crete.
The meeting of the primates this morning was devoted to a review of the draft Message to the world that will be issued by the Council. https://www.orthodoxcouncil.org/-/his-all-holiness-the-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-convenes-small-synaxis-of-the-primates-of-the-orthodox-churches?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2F A committee has been working on this draft in the last week or so. At the meeting of the primates today in Crete, Patriarch Irinej of Serbia expressly stated his hope that the absent Churches could arrive for the Liturgy on the feast of Pentecost this Sunday. http://www.spc.rs/sr/sabranje_predstojatelja_na_kritu It was resolved at today’s meeting to send a letter of invitation to the four absent primates to attend this Sunday’s Liturgy. [Because of the shortness of time, it would probably be impossible for the entire delegations of the four absent Churches to arrive before Sunday.] According to a website of the Romanian Patriarchate, Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro, who accompanied Patriarch Irinej to the meeting, suggested that telephone contacted be immediately initiated by the Ecumenical Patriarch with the absent primates to discuss with them the Message. With the approval of the other nine primates, this was done by the Ecumenical Patriarch. http://basilica.ro/intaistatatorii-absenti-vor-fi-invitati-la-coliturghisirea-din-ziua-cincizecimii/
The report from the Romanian Patriarchate also stated that “disputes in Qatar and the problem of mixed marriages cannot constitute reasons for the absence of the four Primates.” This implies that the disputed documents on relations to the rest of the Christian world and the mission of the Orthodox Church may not be a subject of discussion at the Crete Council but deferred to a later pan-Orthodox Council or a future continuation of this Council. If that is the case, the primary focus of the Crete Council may be the Message and also the three undisputed documents (fasting, autonomy, and diaspora) and possibility the document on marriage. In accordance with the desires of Moscow, Bulgaria, and Georgia, there would therefore be more time to reach a consensus on the two most disputed documents. The very fact that the reports so far have not indicated that the primates in their meeting today discussed the rules and amendments to the two most disputed documents is further indication that these two documents may be deferred to a later time. Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) has been quoted as saying that there are “no set rules.” http://basilica.ro/au-inceput-lucrarile-sinaxei-mici-a-intaistatatorilor-astazi-va-fi-analizat-mesajul-sfantului-si-marelui-sinod/ As a practical matter, it seems that the one week scheduled for the Crete Council really does not provide adequate time to discuss these disputed issues.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the Holy Spirit inspires a solution so that the four absent primates will attend!
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
16 June 2016: Tomorrow's critical meeting
The primates of the Local Orthodox Churches continue to arrive at the Chania airport in Crete. The final group of the primates -- Greece, Serbia, Jerusalem, and Albania -- arrived together on a single flight from (presumably) Athens this afternoon. You can see many photos and a video at http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/8910-afiji-prokathimenon-stin-kriti-foto The primate of Romania arrived at noon today. http://www.romfea.gr/patriarxeia-ts/patriarxeio-roumanias/8909-afixthi-stin-kriti-o-patriarxis-roumanias-foto Tonight, Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias of Greece will host an official dinner for the primates. http://www.amna.gr/english/article/14208/FM-Kotzias-on-Crete-on-Thursday-while-Heads-of-Churches-continue-to-arrive-in-Chania-for-Panorthodox-Synod
Tomorrow (Friday) the primates will hold an all-day meeting. In my opinion, this meeting could be the most crucial of the entire Council. The primates will obviously need to discuss the rules under which the sessions will be conducted. As I reported yesterday, Serbia has stated that the Council cannot be the “hostage” of the existing rules. Earlier, the Holy Assembly of Serbian Bishops had stated: If it happens to be the case that this Code of Regulations anticipates and controls the work of the Synod in advance, then little space will be left for freedom of the members of the Synod in the Holy Spirit and for what the Apostles formulate by the following words: “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us” (Acts 15, 28). Under the existing draft rules, the only topics (except for the “Message”) that can be raised are those “unanimously approved during Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Meetings or during Synaxes of the Primates.” (Art. 8, para. 2) In short, nothing new can be raised in the plenary sessions. To speak, one must first give written notice to the Council’s Secretariat, which prioritizes speakers, and also receive permission from the Council’s Chairman. (Art. 10) In addition, an amendment to a draft text “that is not approved unanimously shall not be passed.” (Art. 11, para. 2)
If an amendment to a submitted text can only be approved if unanimously approved by the Local Churches, the exact wording of the text to be submitted becomes critical. Tomorrow is perhaps the last opportunity for the primates to determine the exact wording of those texts before their submission to the plenary sessions. Will some of the changes suggested by Greece, Serbia, Georgia, and other Local Churches be incorporated into the texts tomorrow?
Yesterday, I asked the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Press Office for the Council if it was possible to received its news releases directly by email at the time they are released. This is the answer that I received:
This is from the Holy Council: You may receive notices by sending an email to: email@example.com. Journalists are kindly requested to type only the following words into the body of their email: subscribe hgc-press.
Depending on the extent of your interest in the Council, you may wish to take advantage of this service
Finally, Serbia today has posted a list of its delegates. http://www.spc.rs/sr/spisak_jerararha_spc_koji_tshe_uchestvovati_u_sabranju_pravoslavnih_crkava_na_kritu
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
15 June 2016 (2): Clarification on Serbia's position
In my last email, I gave a link to the letter from Serbian Patriarch Irinej. However, the letter was in Serbian and in a format where a translation tool would not work. Now, I have just been kindly notified by one of you that an official English translation has been posted. Because Serbia plays such a critical role in the Council, I thought that I should immediately communicate this English translation to you, even though it means (regrettably) bothering you with another email today. The translation may be read at http://spc.rs/eng/communique_12 .
Serbia is obviously concerned that the views of the absent members “be considered” by the Council. However, the communique does not take the position that all of the views of the absent Churches must be adopted. Serbia affirms that if the views of the absent Churches are not considered, the Serbian delegation will be forced to leave the Council’s sessions and join the absent Churches. Hopefully, even without this position by Serbia, the participating Churches will try to formulate decisions that will not highly objectionable to the absent Churches. The goal would be to formulate decisions that may have a reasonable possibility of subsequent adoption by the absent Churches.
Serbia also states that the Council “cannot be a hostage of in advance layed out and accepted rules.” This is consistent with Serbia’s previous position in favor of more open deliberations. As it stands under the existing draft rules, no new topics can be brought up during the sessions (only the submitted six documents may be considered) and a complete consensus is required for the adoption of any amendments to a document. Ironically, I believe that it was Moscow which strongly advocated the restrictive provisions of the existing rules so that there could be no surprises during the sessions themselves.
Very significantly, Serbia “ insists that the gathering on the island of Crete be a beginning of a Conciliar process.” To me this sounds similar to the position taken by Patriarch Daniel of Romania that the Crete meeting be considered the first of a series of meetings where the Orthodox Church as a whole exercises its synodality. In this regard, Serbia states that the Crete meeting should continue as long as needed. As it stands now, the Council’s sessions will only last for six days. This raises the possibility that the Council may be adjourned at the end of the June deliberation and reconvened at a later date.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
15 June 2016 (1): Start of the Council
The websites in Crete were correct. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew arrived in Crete today. https://www.orthodoxcouncil.org/-/update-arrival-of-his-all-holiness-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2F However, even more significant is that the Churches of Serbia and Poland will participate in the Crete Council. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/8898-i-ekklisia-tis-serbias-tha-summetasxei-stin-agia-sunodo (Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro confirms participation); http://www.spc.rs (letter from Patriarch Irinej); http://www.romfea.gr/ekklisies-ts/ekklisia-polonias/8896-episkopos-siematitse-i-ekklisia-tis-polonias-tha-summetasxei-sti-sunodo (Bishop Siemiatycki, Ordinary of the Polish Army, confirms participation). The participation of Serbia is especially significant. Serbia and Russia have historically had a close relationship, and so have their two Orthodox Churches. If a close friend of the Moscow Patriarchate choses to attend, it is extremely likely that we have ten Local Orthodox Churches in Crete for the Council.
Upon his arrival in Crete, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew made a strong appeal for the four absent Local Churches to attend the Council. http://www.tovima.gr/society/article/?aid=808139 For those promoting the conservative Orthodox agenda, it is a big mistake for Moscow, Georgia, and Bulgaria to be absent. (Antioch is not a conservative Church and is absent simply because of its dispute with Jerusalem.) These Churches simply cannot rely on the position that the Council can make no decisions without the approval of all of the 14 Local Orthodox Churches. It is unrealistic for them to believe that the ten participating Local Churches will use their time in Crete simply as a social event and not make any decisions or proclaim any messages. However, if at least one of the most conservative churches are present, it would have a powerful weapon through the ability in effect to veto by operation of the consensus rule the various decisions and messages that are inconsistent with the conservative position. Not having any of the most conservative churches present does great damage to the conservative cause, and in my opinion is a huge mistake on their part.
The day-by-day schedule (in English) for the Council is available at https://www.orthodoxcouncil.org/council-schedule . A number of the events will have live web streaming.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
14 June 2016: Bartholomew arriving in Crete tomorrow
A website in Crete reports that it has just been announced that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be arriving in Crete at 13:00 tomorrow (Wednesday). It states that the “Great and Holy Council moves forward.” Delegations from the Local Churches are expected to arrive on Thursday. http://cretedoc.gr/%CE%BC%CF%8C%CE%BB%CE%B9%CF%82-%CE%B1%CE%BD%CE%B1%CE%BA%CE%BF%CE%B9%CE%BD%CF%8E%CE%B8%CE%B7%CE%BA%CE%B5-%CE%B7-%CE%BF%CF%81%CE%B8%CF%8C%CE%B4%CE%BF%CE%BE%CE%B7-%CE%B5%CE%BA%CE%BA%CE%BB%CE%B7%CF%83/ However, I must add a note of caution. This has not been announced on the website of the Ecumenical Patriarchate or by the major religious websites. However, maybe the decision was made to proceed with the Crete Council without making any formal rebuttal to the decision by the Moscow Patriarchate yesterday. If this news from Crete is incorrect, I will send another email to that effect.
If one views the Crete Council as a one-in-a-millennium event, the refusal of four of the Local Orthodox Churches, including the largest one, to participate is indeed a great tragedy. However, there is some solace if one views this Council instead as the first of a series of Orthodox Council that will be occurring in the coming decades. According to the view of Patriarch Daniel, there should be an Orthodox Council every five, seven, or ten years. http://basilica.ro/patriarhul-romaniei-un-eveniment-istoric-important-pentru-a-dezvolta-practica-sinodalitatii-la-nivel-panortodox/ This would allow the Orthodox Church as a whole to exercise its universal synodality on a regular basis. If the viewpoint of Patriarch Daniel is accepted, planning could begin immediately after the Crete Council for the next council, hopefully with the participation of all of the Local Churches. Topics not addressed at Crete could be addressed at the second council.
Father John Chryssavgis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has made an interested observation with the respect to the characterization of the Crete Council. https://www.orthodoxcouncil.org/-/many-questions-simple-answers-on-process-and-governance-of-the-holy-and-great-council?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2Fcommentaries He states that in the absence of one of more Local Churches, a council may not be “pan-Orthodox,” but it still can be “great.” He contends that a “great” council is one that has greater jurisdiction than any administrative synod of an autocephalous Orthodox Church. Therefore, the Crete Council can still be called the “Holy and Great Council.”
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
13 June (2): Moscow's official English translation
The official English translation of the full text of the statement issued today by Moscow’s Holy Synod has now been posted on the DECR website. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/06/13/news132897/ Aside from the six points of the decision itself, the statement discusses the background events leading up to the decision. One new aspect is the description of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s letter of June 9 sent to the Moscow Patriarchate. Also the statement implicitly acknowledges that Serbia has not refused to attend the Crete Council.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
13 June (1): Moscow - no to Crete
This is the statement in Russian that was just posted on the website of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/06/13/news132897/ Using the Google translation tool, it appears that Moscow Patriarchate at its emergency meeting today decided that its delegation will not go to Crete. This is also confirmed by Metropolitan Hilarion. http://ria.ru/religion/20160613/1446747262.html
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
12 June 2016: Greece - yes; Serbia - extremely likely
According to an article posted today by Orthodoxie.com, Archbishop Ieronymos, the primate of the Church of Greece, has stated that the Council is proceeding normally, regardless of absences, and has made it clear that the Church of Greece will participate as agreed. http://orthodoxie.com/larcheveque-dathenes-sexprime-au-sujet-de-labsence-de-certaines-eglises-au-concile-panorthodoxe/ He also stated, "I'm amazed! Since we have commonly agreed that the Council would take place, how can each decide that it will not come.”
Also today, the Greek website Amen.gr has pointed to some very positive signs that Serbia will in fact come to Crete. http://www.amen.gr/article/thermo-minyma-tou-patriarxi-servias-ston-oikoumeniko-patriarxi-me-anafores-stin-agia-kai-megali-synodo First, the website provides a photocopy of the letter sent yesterday (June 11) by Serbian Patriarch Irinej to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew on the latter’s name’s day. The letter states that the Serbian Patriarchate will contribute positively to the work of the Council in Crete. Second, the website states that Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro (one of the most influential hierarchs in the Patriarchate) is participating in the committee to draft the Message of the Council. The committee has been scheduled to meet 9-16 June in Crete. https://www.orthodoxcouncil.org/-/orthodox-churches-plant-seeds-for-unity-despite-tough-conditions-messaging-committee-convenes-in-communion?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2F
The official communique from the Patriarchate of Georgia announcing its refusal to go to Crete has now been post. http://patriarchate.ge/geo/wminda-sinodis-sxdomis-oqmi-wminda/
Of course, everyone is now waiting for the final decision of the Moscow Patriarchate which will be made at the emergency meeting of its Holy Synod tomorrow (Monday). Especially with Serbia going to Crete, I believe that it is extremely likely that Moscow will also go. In view of Moscow’s strong desire to exercise a leadership role in the Orthodox world in general, I do not see how Moscow can afford not to participate in this meeting which will probably include at least 10 of the Local Orthodox Churches. Moscow will probably say on Monday: Yes, the delegation of the Moscow Patriarchate will go to Crete, but we are not going to a pan-Orthodox Council (in view of the absence of three Churches), but rather to a conference of Local Orthodox Churches. On June 10, Vladimir Legoyda, head of Moscow’s Synodal Department for Church, Society and Media Relations, stated: “We see no possibility of considering this event the Pan-Orthodox Council. It can probably be called, for instance, the Pan-Orthodox Conference in which not all the Churches participate." http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=13015
An international group of Orthodox scholars has made an urgent appeal in many languages to the Local Orthodox Churches that the Council proceed as scheduled. https://www.orthodoxcouncil.org/-/an-open-letter-of-the-orthodox-christian-scholars-around-the-world-to-the-holy-and-great-council-of-crete?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2F
The two Vatican’s observers at Crete will be, not surprisingly, Cardinal Kurt Koch and Bishop Brian Farrell from the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity. http://de.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/06/10/kurienkardinal_koch_setzt_weiter_auf_panorthodoxes_konzil/1236244 They will be present at the Pentecost Liturgy before the Council and the Liturgy at the close of the Council. Interestingly, a press release from the Ecumenical Council stated yesterday that “The Holy and Great Council will officially open June 20th [the day after Pentecost] at the Orthodox Academy of Crete in Greece.” Previously, June 18 has usually be designated as the opening date of the Council. Perhaps the reason for the change is to assure conservatives that the non-Orthodox observers will not be present during the Council itself.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
10 June 2016 (2): Moscow meeting Monday
It was just announced two hours ago that the Moscow Patriarchate will hold an emergency meeting of its Holy Synod on Monday, June 13. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4535785.html According to the announcement, “the meeting of the Holy Synod will be held to discuss the emergency situation after the failure of a number of the Local Orthodox Churches to take part in the Pan-Orthodox Council, which was scheduled to be held in Crete 18-27 June 2016.” I cannot help but believe that many telephone calls have been made and will be made in the next two days between the Local Churches to discover some solutions. The meeting on Monday is only five days before the planned beginning of the Council. The delegations of the various Local Orthodox Churches need at least a few days’ notice in order to know whether they should pack their bags for Crete.
It is very possible that Serbia will be a pivotal factor in the decision that will be made on Monday. As you recall, the Serbian Patriarchate said that it would not go to Crete for a pan-Orthodox Council, but it recommended that the meeting in Crete be used as an inter-Orthodox consultation. In this regard, the Patriarchate’s June 6 letter stated: “our Church feels it difficult to participate in the summoned Holy and Great Synod, and proposes that it be postponed for a certain time: while our pending gathering at Crete, with the help of God, would be regarded as a pre-Synodal inter-Orthodox consultation with the aim of additionally preparing the Synod and improving its texts, or, at the most, as the inaugural phase of the whole synodal process, which is to be completed in subsequent continuation, in the next phase, when all disagreements are removed in favor of unity of mind and consensus of Churches.” Clearly, the meeting on Crete cannot be a “pan-Orthodox Council” to the extent that this term means the participation of all of the 14 Local Orthodox Churches. It seems almost certain that Bulgaria and Antioch will not be there. What will the Crete meeting be called then? It will simply be a meeting of 11 or 12 of the Local Orthodox Churches. Those Local Orthodox Churches can adopt certain proclamations to the world including statements on the persecution of Christians, various moral issues, and other subjects. Absent Local Churches would be free to adopt the proclamations or decisions later so as to make them truly “pan-Orthodox.”
The present Council has been designed to be very controlled. Essentially, all of significant decisions were to be made before the Council even began. The Council fathers would essentially “rubber-stamp” those decisions because amendments during the actual session would be very difficult to make. I have been informed that the Serbian Patriarchate operates the meetings of its bishops with open and free discussions. Perhaps it wants the meeting in Crete to have the same openness. Maybe the 11 or 12 Local Churches should celebrate the Liturgy on Pentecost and invoke the Holy Spirit to guide them in their Crete meeting. Maybe something very good will happen.
Lastly, the Orthodox Church in America has adopted a very nice (in my opinion) statement with respect to the Council. http://oca.org/news/headline-news/holy-synod-issues-statement-petitions-on-the-holy-and-great-council
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
10 June (1): Latest score on Council
The website of the Patriarchate of Georgia had previously reported that another meeting of its Holy Synod would be held today (Friday). Although there is nothing official yet on the Patriarchate’s website concerning today’s meeting, several media sources have stated that the decision of Georgia was not to participate in the pan-Orthodox Council in Crete next week. http://ria.ru/religion/20160610/1445521459.html Based on the previous statements by Georgia, this is not surprising.
On the other side of the scoreboard, Jerusalem has stated that the Council should proceed. http://www.jp-newsgate.net/gr/2016/06/10/36456 In a radio interview, the patriarch of Alexandria has also spoken in favor of holding the pan-Orthodox Council now. http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=120896
It has been reported that Antioch has now cancelled all of its airline and hotel reservations with respect to the Crete meeting. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/8803-oristiko-oxi-apo-antioxeia-gia-kriti
In an interview (French), a more detailed explanation of Bulgaria’s refusal has been given. http://orthodoxie.com/le-metropolite-de-lovetch-gabriel-sur-les-raisons-qui-ont-incite-leglise-orthodoxe-de-bulgarie-a-renoncer-a-sa-participation-au-concile-panorthodoxe/
Although Moscow’s Holy Synod stated on June 3 that “it should be noted that the non-participation of at least one of them [Local Churches] in the Council constitutes an unsurmountable obstacle to the holding of a Holy and Great Council,” Moscow has not yet definitely stated that it will not go to the Crete Council. I believe that Moscow is delaying such a pronouncement so as not to be seen as the Local Church that gave the fatal blow to the Crete Council.
As far as I can determine, the score this morning which respect to holding the pan-Orthodox Council this month is:
DEFINITELY NO: Bulgaria, Antioch, Serbia, Georgia
VERY LIKELY NO: Moscow
YES: Ecumenical Patriarchate, Romania, Albania, Cyprus, Alexandria, Jerusalem
I HAVE NOT HEARD: Greece, Poland, Czech Lands and Slovakia
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
9 June 2016: Serbia's letter - no Council now
Today, the Patriarchate of Serbia posted on its website both its message to the Local Orthodox Churches, dated 25 May 2016, and its letter to the Ecumenical Patriarch, dated 6 June 2016. The posting includes the full English texts of both letters. http://www.spc.rs/eng In my opinion, the first letter is quite a surprise. Serbia essentially objects to the very controlled nature of the Crete Council: the work of the Council should not be controlled in advance and each bishop should have the right to vote. Serbia’s view of the operation of the Council is radically different from the one planned. The second letter does not propose to cancel the Crete meeting but to convert it into a planning session for a future pan-Orthodox Council. The key paragraph of the latter letter is as follows:
- the lack of will from our Mother Church of Constantinople to have at least one of the proposals of our Church (such as the discussion on autocephaly, right of bishops to vote at the Synod, on regarding the synods from the ninth and fourteenth centuries as ecumenical already, in the consciousness and practice of the Orthodox Church, and some other ones, perhaps less significant) included into the thematic and agenda of the Synod, and, as long as we remain obligated by the standpoints of the Holy Assembly of Bishops of our Church, officially formulated two years ago, as well as recently, at the end of the past month of May, we are compelled, with sadness — but also with full feeling of our pastoral and, generally, ecclesial responsibility — to inform Your dear and respected Holiness and Your Holy and Sacred Synod that, since all this is so, our Church feels it difficult to participate in the summoned Holy and Great Synod, and proposes that it be postponed for a certain time: while our pending gathering at Crete, with the help of God, would be regarded as a pre-Synodal inter-Orthodox consultation with the aim of additionally preparing the Synod and improving its texts, or, at the most, as the inaugural phase of the whole synodal process, which is to be completed in subsequent continuation, in the next phase, when all disagreements are removed in favor of unity of mind and consensus of Churches. In this way, with the aid of God, the fruit of the Synod will be seen as witness given to our uncorrupted faith, answer to hope which abides in us as the message of salvation in Christ, directed to all, both to those who are close to us and to those who are remote, and in no case, God forbid, as germination of new pestilent schismas and para-synagogues under the excuse of falsely proclaimed zealousness and alleged preservation of Orthodoxy.
Briefly, in other news, the Orthodox Church of Albania has stated that the Council should proceed as scheduled. http://www.amen.gr/article/ekklisia-tis-alvanias-i-syglisi-tis-agias-kai-megalis-synodou-einai-epivevlimeni The primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus has taken the same position today. http://www.amen.gr/article/arxiepiskopos-kyprou-xrysostomos-i-efthyni-tha-varainei-osous-esto-kai-athela-tous-tha-symvaloun-sti-diaspasi-tis-enotitas An interesting interview of Metropolitan Emmanuel (Ecumenical Patriarch) can be read at http://www.ekirikas.com/%CE%BF-%CE%BC%CE%B7%CF%84%CF%81%CE%BF%CF%80%CE%BF%CE%BB%CE%AF%CF%84%CE%B7%CF%82-%CE%B3%CE%B1%CE%BB%CE%BB%CE%AF%CE%B1%CF%82-%CE%B5%CE%BC%CE%BC%CE%B1%CE%BD%CE%BF%CF%85%CE%AE%CE%BB-%CE%B1%CF%80%CE%BF-2/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
8 June 2016: Romania, Cyprus & more
Aside from the big news relating to the decision of the Patriarchate of Antioch, there is also news today from other Local Orthodox Churches relating to the pan-Orthodox Council.
The Patriarchate of Romania completed today a two-day meeting of its Holy Synod. A summary of its proceedings has been posted on website of the Patriarchate’s news agency. http://basilica.ro/hotarari-ale-sfantului-sinod-al-bisericii-ortodoxe-romane-din-zilele-de-6-si-7-iunie-2016/ With respect to the pan-Orthodox Council, the summary contains only the following short statement: Approval of the composition of the delegation of the Romanian Patriarchate to attend the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church (Crete - Greece 16 to 27 June 2016) and amendments of Holy Synod of the Romanian Orthodox Church to the texts proposed on the agenda of the Synod of Crete, for a common witness of unity in faith and co-responsibility for the life and mission of the Church at the pan-Orthodox level.
The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus also concluded a meeting today. http://churchofcyprus.org.cy/22489 The summary issued by the Church states: They exchanged views and approved the positions of the Church of Cyprus in the future to meet, during the current month of June, in Crete, for the Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church. It appears that the Church of Cyprus is also proposing certain amendments to the Council documents. A photocopy of the document (in Greek) containing the recommended amendments can be accessed at https://www.scribd.com/doc/314804742/%CE%A0%CE%A1%CE%9F%CE%A4%CE%91%CE%A3%CE%95%CE%99%CE%A3-%CE%95%CE%9A%CE%9A%CE%9B%CE%97%CE%A3%CE%99%CE%91%CE%A3-%CE%9A%CE%A5%CE%A0%CE%A1%CE%9F%CE%A5-%CE%99%CE%A3%CE%A4%CE%9F%CE%9B%CE%9F%CE%93%CE%99%CE%9F-%CE%91%CE%9A%CE%A4%CE%99%CE%9D%CE%95%CE%A3 . The proposed amendments are summarized in Russian at http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=120810 . According to the latter site, one of the proposed amendments is to substitute “other non-Orthodox Christian Churches” for “other Christian Churches.”
The Patriarchate of Georgia has posted a notice that its Holy Synod will be meeting again on June 10. http://patriarchate.ge/geo/paraskevs-10-ivniss-did-da/ Presumably, at that time, it will make a final decision as to whether to attend the pan-Orthodox Council.
In an interview today, Metropolitan Hilarion stated his belief that the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate will hold another emergency meeting of its Holy Synod to determine how to proceed in a situation where a number of local Orthodox Churches refuse to participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council on Crete and to decide about its own participation in the Council. http://www.newsru.com/religy/07jun2016/allorthodox_sobor_rpc.html (Russian) In another interview, he stated that if the pending issues are not resolved, it is probably best to postpone the Council. He furthermore stated that consensus not only means the agreement of those in the hall, but the agreement of all of the Local Churches. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=13002 (English); https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/06/07/news132706/ (Russian)
Today, Vatican Insider posted an interview with Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia (Church of Greece). http://www.lastampa.it/2016/06/07/vaticaninsider/eng/inquiries-and-interviews/the-panorthodox-council-is-an-historic-event-no-one-must-be-absent-WTlAVSXZ3omyacCGvpoJiO/pagina.html (English) The Metropolitan stated: “This is an historic moment and none of the Orthodox Churches must be absent from this pan-Orthodox Council.” Although he acknowledged that the Church of Greece has proposed an amendment not to apply the word “Church” to non-Orthodox Christians, he stated his own view that the Catholic Church is in fact a church. He added: “But I think it is unlikely the proposal [of the Church of Greece] will go through [at the Council]. There are many others who do not agree with this amendment.”
Rev. John Chryssavgis (Ecumenical Patriarch) has given an interesting interview to the Catholic website Crux. https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2016/06/07/leading-cleric-says-orthodox-churchs-vatican-ii-go/ (English) Father John is on the drafting committee for the Council’s final message. He made a statement, with which I am sure Moscow would disagree: “If one or more churches doesn’t attend, or withdraws during the council, or is not present and doesn’t vote, all the decisions made will still hold and be binding for all Orthodox churches.”
Again, sorry for all these emails. As you know, there are sometimes three weeks between my emails. However, now important events are occurring every day.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
7 June 2016: Antioch's decision
Yesterday’s (June 6) decision of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch has now been posted. The full text can be read in English, Greek, and French at http://www.antiochpatriarchate.org/en/page/1436/ . The decision includes the following key paragraphs:
- To ask His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch to work on achieving a consensus about the reservations raised by the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches related to the Holy and Great Council in the time separating us from the date of its convention. In case this fails, the Antiochian Church asks for postponing the convention of the Great Holy Council to another date, when peaceful relations between the autocephalous churches prevail, and Orthodox consensus about the Council’s agenda, regulations and executive and practical procedures are guaranteed;
- The Antiochian Church will not participate in the Holy and Great Council until the reasons, which prevent participating in the Holy Eucharist during the Council, disappear. And this, through finding a final solution to the violation of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem of the canonical jurisdictional boundaries of the Antiochian See, which led to breaking the communion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem;
There is no reference in Antioch’s decision to the Constantinople’s decision also made yesterday.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
6 June 2016 (3): Official English translation
There is now an official English translation, just posted on the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s website: https://www.patriarchate.org/-/anakoinothen-06-06-2016-?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2Fhome It is a big improvement over the machine translation that I sent to you earlier today. According to the official translation, the meeting today at the Fanar was an “extraordinary session of the Sacred Endemousa Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.” I have been informed that an “Endemousa Synod” is not the standing synod (comprised of the ecumenical patriarch as president and 12 hierarchs), but rather is the synod that includes all the hierarchs who are have come to or are present in Constantinople at the time of the synod's convening. Such a synod is usually convened only for a serious matter.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
6 June 2016 (2): More on EP's announcement
I have been informed that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is now preparing an official English translation of the announcement made by its Holy Synod and that this translated will be posted shortly. However, in the meantime, Orthodoxie.com has posted a French translation. http://orthodoxie.com/decision-du-patriarcat-oecumenique-au-sujet-du-maintien-du-concile-panorthodoxe-a-la-date-prevue/ The Google translation tools works a little better on the French than on the Greek. Below is the English translation of the French translation:
The Ecumenical Patriarchate has published the following statement dated June 6, 2016:
"The Standing Holy Synod [endimousa] the Ecumenical Patriarchate, celebrated today at its special meeting under the chairmanship of His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew to examine the progress of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, called by God's grace and that is already upon us. The Standing Holy Synod [endimousa] was informed in amazement and perplexity the positions and views expressed recently by some of the Orthodox Churches and sisters, after evaluation, found no institutional framework exists for the revision of the conciliar process started. Also, it is expected that the Primates of the most holy Orthodox Churches, according to Regulation of organization and operation of the Holy and Great Council, have any "proposals for amendments, corrections or additions to the text unanimously approved by the Pan-Orthodox Conferences and the preconciliar synaxes Primates on the topics in the agenda of the Council "(Article 11), to the development and the final decision in the work of the Holy and Great Council, by the invocation of the Spirit Most Holy. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, as Church first responsible for safeguarding the unity of Orthodoxy calls all to live up to the circumstances and to participate, as scheduled, the work of the Holy and Great Council, as was agreed and signed the pan-Orthodox level, both by the Primates at their synaxes, by each delegation receiving the relevant authorities during the long preparatory process of the Council.
Done at the Patriarchate, June 6, 2016
the Secretariat "
In essence, the announcement states that for those who are not happy with the text of various documents, there is a procedure for proposals and amendments foreseen by article 11 of the Statutes. The Primates are called to participate to the pan-Orthodox Council and submit there their proposals
As can be seen, this announcement relies on Article 11 of the Working Procedure for the Council. These procedures can be read at https://www.holycouncil.org/-/procedures?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2F&_101_INSTANCE_VA0WE2pZ4Y0I_languageId=en_US . All of the Local Orthodox Churches have signed these procedures except for Antioch. Article 11 of these procedures provides as follows:
Article 11 - Modifications of Texts
Proposals to amend, correct, or append the Synodal texts that were unanimously approved by the Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Meetings and by Synaxes of the Primates, or to the Council’s Message:
- Shall be submitted by representatives of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches to the Council’s Secretariat and, in turn, presented by the Chairman during plenary session for official conciliar decision.
- At the conclusion of deliberations, the approval of any change is expressed, according to pan-Orthodox procedures, by the consensus of the delegations of each autocephalous Orthodox Church. This means that an amendment that is not approved unanimously shall not be passed.
Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Article 8 are also relevant. They provide:
- According to the daily agenda, the texts unanimously approved at Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Meetings and at Synaxes of the Primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches shall be considered in Plenary sessions and/or in Synodal Committees.
- Except for the Council’s final Message, new matters or those topics that were not unanimously approved during Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Meetings or during Synaxes of the Primates cannot be submitted to the Council for consideration. The draft of the Council’s final Message shall be prepared by a Special Pan-Orthodox Committee a week before the convening of the Council and will be subject to the approval of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches.
As can be seen from the foregoing, only documents unanimously approved at Pan-Orthodox Preconcilar Meetings and at the Synaxes of the Primates can be considered. These events have already occurred. Although there are plans for the primates to meet on the day before the opening of the Council, this meeting is not reflected or recognized in the Procedures. Thus, there is a strong argument that a document, such as relations to the rest of the Christian world, which has been previously approved by the Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Meeting and by the January Synaxis, must be submitted to the Council in its present form. Furthermore, during the course of the Council, “an amendment that is not approved unanimously shall not be passed.”
In seeking now to amend these texts, Moscow appears to be aware of this problem. Thus, on Friday, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate urged a meeting of the Local Orthodox Churches be held before June 10. The Synod specifically characterized this meeting as an extraordinary Pan-Orthodox Preconcilar Meeting. This would qualify the meeting under the Procedures. However, if there is not a new Pan-Orthodox Preconcilar Meeting, the one already held would govern. Therefore, it is not surprising that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not agreeing to a new Pan-Orthodox Preconcilar Meeting.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
6 June 2016 (1): Constantiniople's decision today
Here is today’s decision by the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. http://www.ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=gr&id=2159&tla=gr It has just been released. Use the Google translation tool. It appears to say that the primates have previously agreed to the documents and the pan-Orthodox Council will be held as scheduled. I hope that those of you who are Greek-speakers will correct me if I am wrong. The Amen.gr story has just been released in the last 5 minutes.
http://www.amen.gr/article/to-oikoumenikon-patriarxeion-kalei-apadas-na-arthoun-eis-to-ypsos-ton-peristaseon No story yet on Romfea. Gr.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
5 June 2016: EP's Synod Emergency Meeting
The Greek website Amen.gr has posted an article that “according to reports,” the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will hold an extraordinary meeting on Monday to examine the situation created by the refusal of the Bulgarian Patriarchate to participate in the pan-Orthodox Council and by the positions taken by Antioch and Moscow. http://www.amen.gr/article/ektakti-syglisi-tis-agias-kai-ieras-synodou-tou-oikoumenikou-patriarxeiou Amen.gr has a very good relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and it is very likely that this article is correct.
The Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR has now posted an official English translation of the complete text of the journal entry adopted at yesterday’s emergency meeting of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Holy Synod. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/06/03/news132577/ Aside from the 9-point resolution, the entry also contains an extensive factual narration of the events leading up to the resolution. From paragraph 2 of the resolutions, it appears that Moscow’s proposed amendments only relate to the document on relations to the rest of the Christian world and to the document on the mission of the Orthodox Church. Unlike the Patriarchate of Georgia, Moscow has apparently not prepared any proposed amendments on the document relating to marriage. It is interesting to note that Moscow is now seeking to amend two documents which have been worked on by Moscow and the other Local Orthodox Churches for decades and which were approved both by Patriarch Kirill and by the Bishops’ Council of the Moscow Patriarchate a few months ago. It is difficult to believe that the amendments proposed are the result of good theological points which have been raised by critics in the last few months and which have gone unnoticed by the Moscow Patriarchate’s leadership (including brilliant theologians) until now.
The DECR posted today a very good English-language interview of Metropolitan Hilarion by The National Herald. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/06/04/news132585/ The interview was obviously done before the refusal of Bulgaria to attend the June pan-Orthodox Council. Thus, Metropolitan Hilarion states: “The Pan-Orthodox Council is also a visible expression of the unity of our Church, testimony that, in spite of the different political conditions in which the Local Churches live, we are capable of achieving unanimity on the issues that are most important to us, since together we comprise the one Church.”
Among the websites that I visit on a regular basis are those of the Patriarchate of Romania. Although Bulgaria and Romania are neighbors, their positions on the pan-Orthodox Council are poles apart. With respect to the Council, things seem to be very quiet in Romania. To the best of my knowledge, there have been no meetings of the Holy Synod to suggest amendments to the documents. What I have seen on the Romanian Patriarchate’s websites with respect to the Council has been positive. In fact, Patriarch Daniel would like to have a pan-Orthodox Council every seven years or so. He believes that it is important for the Local Orthodox Churches to exercise their synodality on a pan-Orthodox level on a regular basis. In the terms of numbers of faithful, Romania is the second largest of the 14 Local Orthodox Churches. It is one of the most religious nations in Europe. According to the Eurobarometer Poll 2010, 92% of the Romania population believe in God (only Malta is higher), while only 36% believe in God in Bulgaria. According to one poll, 38% of the population in Romania regularly go to church at least twice a month. Interestingly, it is not Romania that is exercising its veto to prevent Orthodoxy from deviating from the true faith, but Bulgaria.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
4 June 2016: Specific amendments & more
There was just posted today a good English translation of the letter from Mt. Athos relating to the pan-Orthodox Council. http://katehon.com/article/open-letter-holy-mount-athos-kinot-patriarch-constantinople-bartholomew-i Also, the Patriarchate of Georgia has now posted official English and Russian translations of its position on the documents. http://patriarchate.ge/geo/minutes-of-the-session-of/ To the best of my knowledge, the Patriarchate of Bulgaria has only made specific comments with respect to the document on relations to the rest of the Christian world. http://bg-patriarshia.bg/reflections.php?id=581 However, Bulgaria has posted on its website the comments of Georgia with respect to the other documents. I believe that the specific suggested amendments by Greece, Serbia, and Moscow have not yet been made public.
It is easy to be disheartened by these recent events and to fear that the dream of the first pan-Orthodox Council in more one thousand years is being shattered. However, especially with prayer, a pan-Orthodox Council this month is still possible. I am sure that there are a number of creative solutions. With respect to the documents on fasting, autonomy, and the diaspora, I am not aware of any real controversy. With respect to the document on marriage, Georgia has two amendments relating to marriage to a non-Orthodox. Interestingly, Mt. Athos has no suggested changes for this document. With respect to the document on the mission of the Orthodox Church, Georgia has four suggested amendments. Mt. Athos has one. If the Local Orthodox Churches concentrate on resolving the difference on the documents relating to marriage and mission in the two weeks before the Council, it is certainly possible that the differences could be resolved.
With respect to the suggested changes on the document on relations of the rest of the Christian world, it is difficult to see how the fundamental differences on this document can be resolved in two weeks, especially when one considers that part of the time needs to be devoted to the documents on marriage and mission. The document on relation to the rest of the Christian world could be deferred to a future time, as has already been done with the documents on the calendar, autocephaly, and the diptychs. The Council would still have five documents that would be approved as well as its letter to the world.
There might even be a solution to the perplexing issue involving Antioch and Jerusalem. The Council is especially invoking the Holy Spirit at its Liturgy on Pentecost. Jerusalem and Antioch together with the other 12 Local Churches could mutually agree that if the two do not settle the dispute among themselves before Pentecost, lots would be drawn after prayers to the Holy Spirit on Pentecost to determine which of the two churches should have jurisdiction over Qatar. It certainly has apostolic precedence in the selection of the successor to Judas. In 1917 Metropolitan Tikhon (now a saint) was elected patriarch of Moscow by drawing lots. The present patriarch of Serbia was also selected by drawing lots. Lots is one way of resolving a dispute, especially if one has complete faith in the Holy Spirit. Again, Jerusalem and Antioch would be free to reach their own resolution before the Council, and the drawing of lots would only be the last resort. This would have the effect of putting maximum pressure on the two churches to reach mutually agreeable terms in the next two weeks. If they cannot resolve it, let the Holy Spirit resolve it.
I am sure that there are far better solutions than the foregoing, and it is probably presumptuous of me even to suggest them. I am mentioning them simply to justify my belief that there may still be light at the end of the tunnel.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
3 June 2016 (2): Moscow's emergency meeting
Today (Friday) the Patriarchate of Bulgaria has posted another communique on its official website. http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=205771 This communique seeks to dispel “false and misleading statements” on the Internet with respect to its Holy Synod’s recent decision relating to the pan-Orthodox Council. The latest communique states: “The decision of the Holy Synod is categorically: BOC-BP will not participate in pan-Orthodox Council for the serious reasons already stated.” This communique also states that the decision was unanimous and signed by the patriarch and all of the members of the Synod. All of the other Local Churches have been notified of this decision. The flight on a government plane that would carry the Bulgarian delegation to Crete has been cancelled, as well as the delegation’s hotel reservations. In my opinion, such an emphatic statement indicates that the chances are very small that negotiations will bring the Bulgarian delegation to Crete this month.
Nevertheless, Moscow is attempting to salvage the situation. Today, the Holy Synod of the Moscow Patriarchate held an emergency session. After the meeting, a communique was issued. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/06/03/news132575/ A Google translation of the communique reads as follows:
At the meeting of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on June 3, 2016, it was noted that on the eve of the Pan-Orthodox Council, there are serious problems requiring immediate common action.
"The decision of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church on June 1, 2016, and the continuing uncertainty regarding the participation of the Patriarchate of Antioch in the Holy and Great Council, as well as the lack of prior consensus on the draft Rules of the Council and on the document "The sacrament of marriage and obstacles to it" mean that at the present time, when there are two weeks before the scheduled opening date of the Council, there are serious problems that require immediate common action"- says the decision of the Holy Synod.
The Holy Synod approved amendments of the Russian Orthodox Church to the draft document: "The relationship of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world" and "Mission of the Orthodox Church in the modern world." The amendments were formulated on the basis of opinions expressed by the bishops, clergy, religious and laity. The decisions of the Synod noted that following the discussion of draft documents of pan-Orthodox Council by the Georgian, Serbian, Bulgarian and Greek Orthodox Churches, and also the Holy Kinot of Mount Athos, presenting substantial amendments, largely consonant with the proposals of the Russian Orthodox Church, a thorough consideration is required in view of finding a common Orthodox consensus.
The Holy Synod said that the non-participation in the Council of at least one of the Church is an insurmountable obstacle for the Holy and Great Council, given that its decisions can be made only by consensus, as follows from the provisions of the documents approved by the Meeting of the Primates of the local Churches.
According to the decision of the Holy Synod, the way out of the state of emergency would be to hold an emergency meeting of the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council to review the situation and examination by the Local Orthodox Churches of the amendments to the Conciliar documents in order to develop coordinated proposals. As a result of this meeting, as stated in the decision of the Holy Synod, there could be rendered a judgment on the possibility of the Pan-Orthodox Council as scheduled.
The position of the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church will be communicated to all of the Primates of the Local Orthodox Churches.
In the last ten minutes, the actual journal entries by the Moscow Patriarchate’s Holy Synod have been posted. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/06/03/news132577/ The minutes of the meeting include a statement that the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council should meet no later than June 10. The minutes do not specify the exact changes now proposed by Moscow Patriarchate. However, they does describe some of the Serbian Patriarchate’s concerns which have not previously been made public.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
3 June 2016 (1): Today's news re Council
Because of my concern that I am sending you too many emails, I seriously considered not sending one today. However, I do believe that there have been some new developments today that might be of interest to you.
First, the Secretariat of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch posted a statement today relating to the Council. The statement can be read in English, Greek, and French at http://www.antiochpatriarchate.org/en/page/%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%B9%D9%86-%D8%A3%D9%85%D8%A7%D9%86%D8%A9-%D8%B3%D8%B1-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AC%D9%85%D8%B9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D9%86%D8%B7%D8%A7%D9%83%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%82%D8%AF%D8%B3-%D8%A8%D8%AA%D8%A7%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%AE-1-%D8%AD%D8%B2%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A7%D9%86-%D9%A2%D9%A0%D9%A1%D9%A6/1434/ The Patriarchate of Antioch expressed “much distress and astonishment” at the decision of the Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to establish a committee which would meet after the Council to attempt to resolve the jurisdictional dispute between Antioch and Jerusalem. According to the statement, the Council should be an expression of unity, and this “unity is best manifested in the Divine Liturgy on the day of Pentecost, with the concelebration of all the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches.” By this, the statement implies that Antioch will not participate in this Liturgy unless the jurisdictional dispute with Jerusalem is first resolved. As you know, Antioch has already broken liturgical communion with Jerusalem, and this in itself would preclude concelebration with Jerusalem The statement does not address the question of whether Antioch would refuse to participate in the Council entirely if the dispute is not first resolved. Rather it states that the “Holy Synod has kept its meetings open, and will meet in the next few days in order to study the special developments related to the Holy and Great Council, and take the proper decisions about them.”
Pravmir.com has now provided a good English translation of the full text of yesterday’s decision by the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria. http://www.pravmir.com/resolution-of-the-holy-synod-of-the-bulgarian-orthodox-church-regarding-the-pan-orthodox-council/ Nezavisimaya Gazeta has posted today an article in which Father Igor Yakymchuk, who is the head of inter-Orthodox relations at the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR, comments on several points raised by Bulgaria. http://www.ng.ru/faith/2016-06-02/1_churches.html Yakymchuk stated that the issue with respect to the seating of the primates was also raised by Patriarch Kirill’s recent letter and has now been resolved with Constantinople. I might personally add that the issue of seating was an important part of the compromise that made the Council possible in the first place. In that compromise Constantinople agreed with Moscow’s demand that all decisions relating to the Council would be made by consensus, and Moscow in turn agreed that the Ecumenical Patriarch would preside at the Council but on the condition that the other 13 primates sit at the same table on either side of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Apparently due to space limitations at the hall in Crete, the organizers planned a configuration of the head table which Moscow and Bulgaria believed did conform to the original understanding.
The article also stated that Kirill’s letter has stated that the costs of holding the Council should be made public. According to the article, an additional 120,000 euros is being demanded of each of the Local Orthodox Churches for the expenses of the Council, and this was the basis of Bulgaria’s protest relating to “large and unjustified expenses.”
However, the most important objection by Bulgaria appears to be the document on relations with the rest of the Christian world and the limited ability to edit it during the sessions of the Council itself. Bulgaria therefore wants its demanded charges incorporated in the document before the document is submitted to the Council, and this requires more time. Clearly, the vast majority of the issues raised by Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, and Mt. Athos relate to this document. If this document is simply removed from the Council’s agenda, such as were the documents on the calendar and autocephaly, the Council would probably proceed relatively quietly and with the participation of Bulgaria and Georgia. It is interesting that during the decades that the various documents were prepared, the document on relations with the rest of the Christian world was not one of the hotly disputed documents among the Local Orthodox Churches. In January the document was approved by the primates of all of the 14 Local Orthodox Churches.
What has changed since then? Most importantly, there was the Havana meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis including the embraces and the signs of brotherly affection between them. For conservation Orthodox, this was a complete shock. Certainly, the Ecumenical Patriarch has been doing this for many years, but Patriarch Kirill is the leader of the largest and most powerful Orthodox Local Church which has traditionally championed the position of conservative Orthodoxy. On top of this, there was the publication of the draft Council documents. The document on relations with the rest of the Christian world gives a strong endorsement to ecumenism, which conservative Orthodox consider perhaps the greatest heresy of our age. For conservative Orthodox, the Havana meeting and the proposed Council document demanded “a call to arms,” and we have been seeing the result of this in recent weeks. Several months ago, Tass reported that a recent poll in Russia found that 71% of Orthodox Christians support further meetings between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis. http://www.pravmir.com/most-russians-support-further-pope-patriarch-meetings-poll/ However, if you took a poll of the very much smaller number of Russian faithful whose lives revolve around their parish church, I believe that you would find many who are very concerned about recent Catholic – Orthodox contacts. Such conservatives are usually concentrated in countries where the faithful have little day-to-day contact with non-Orthodox Christians and where some of their most revered national saints in the past have strongly attacked Catholicism. Such conservative faithful and priests have certainly been making their views known to their bishops in recent months. To say that there is a uniformity of views among the Orthodox faithful with respect to relations to Catholics simply is not true.
Lastly, the Orthodox Church of Greece has now released the text of its letter which relates to its position with respect to the Council and which will be read at all liturgies in Greece on Sunday. http://www.amen.gr/article/i-egyklios-pros-ton-lao-gia-tin-agia-kai-megali-synodo The letter states that the changes to the Council documents proposed by the hierarchy of the Church of Greece are “substantial,” but the letter does not describe what the specific changes are.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
2 June 2016 (2): Official Communique - Bulgaria
http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=205494 Use Google translation tool to translate. This confirms news reports earlier today.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
2 June 2016 (1): More on Bulgaria
An Orthodox friend of mine was kind enough to send me the following link: http://sofiaglobe.com/2016/06/01/bulgarian-orthodox-church-withdraws-from-pan-orthodox-council-in-crete/ It is an English-language article from The Sofia Globe entitled, “Bulgarian Orthodox Church withdraws from Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete.” It gives further support to the Romfea.gr article that was the subject of my report earlier today. Earlier this year Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) indicated that the Council would go forward even if one of the Local Orthodox Churches failed to attend. If this happens, the Crete meeting may be changed from a pan-Orthodox Council to a synod of Local Orthodox Churches. One of the main purposes of the pan-Orthodox Council was to show to the world a sign of Orthodox unity and to show that there is really one Orthodox Church and not 14 separate ones. The action of Bulgaria, assuming the two reports are true, is enough to make one weep.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
1 June 2016: Bulgaria - must postpone Council?
Romfea.gr is the most popular religious website in Greece. This website is normally reliable, although it was wrong a few days ago in reporting that Antioch had agreed to put the Qatar dispute “on ice.” In the last few hours, Romfea.gr has posted an “exclusive” report with the sensational news that the Bulgarian Patriarchate will not participate in the pan-Orthodox Council unless the Council is postponed. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/8645-tinazei-ston-aera-tin-megali-sunodo-i-boulgaria The article also states that “the hierarchs of Bulgaria categorically declare to Romfea.gr that they are determined not to participate if they do not see progress in the resolution of their claims.” When one considers all of the preparations that have been made for the Council, it is extremely difficult to believe that this report is true. However, there is a possible logic to such a maneuver. If Bulgaria did attend the Council, its most powerful weapon would be a refusal to sign a document, such as relations with the rest of the Christian world, with the result, because of the consensus rule, that there would be no approved document on that subject. The absence of a document on the subject would simply be a continuation of the status quo on such matters as ecumenism. However, a refusal by Bulgaria to participate in the Council could be used as leverage to obtain a document on relations to the rest of the Christian world that would roll back the practice of certain Local Orthodox Churches with respect to ecumenism.
It should also be noted that the most critical time for the Council may well be the one-day meeting of the primates immediately before the opening of the Council. In that meeting, the primates will decide the exact form of each document that will then be considered by the Council itself. Under the consensus rule, a specific amendment to a document can only be made during the Council itself if all of the Local Orthodox Churches agree to that specific amendment. In short, it will be difficult to amend a document. If a Church such as Bulgaria is unable to obtain a complete consensus on one of its proposed amendments, its only recourse will be to refuse to sign the document at the end of the Council. It could well be that Bulgaria desires to use its threat of non-attendance so as change the document that will be considered by the primates and submitted to the Council. This will take more time, which the Bulgarian Church is supposedly seeking.
In other news, the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece approved today the exact amendments that it will seek at the Council. http://www.romfea.gr/ekklisia-ellados/8643-apofaseis-1is-sunedrias-tis-dis-minos-iouniou These will be read to the faithful at all of liturgies in Greece this Sunday. Maybe in the next day or so, there will be information on the Internet as to the exact changes proposed. It should be noted that by making its proposed changes in such a public proclamation, the Church of Greece, perhaps intentionally, has made it difficult to retreat later at the Council from these proposed amendments. In April, Bulgaria also, probably intentionally, limited its future flexibility by declaring that it position on its proposed changes is “final, formal, and unchangeable.”
Finally, I think it is important to recognize the majority of Local Orthodox Churches that have stood by the decisions of their primates at the January synaxis at Chambesy and have not sought to submit last-minute amendments to the draft documents which their primates approved and signed in January and which had been the product of literally decades of discussions and work.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
31 May 2016: Mount Athos says no
Today (May 31) there are a number of important developments relating to the pan-Orthodox Council, which will begin in a little more than two weeks. The reports of all of these are in Greek, and unfortunately, the Google translation tool has not done a good job of translating them. However, because a number of you are Greek-speaking, I decided not to delay providing this news until a better translation is available.
First, the monasteries at Mt. Athos have sent a six-page letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with copies to the primates of the various Local Orthodox Churches. The complete text of the letter in Greek can be read at http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/8611-parembasi-tou-agiou-orous-gia-tin-agia-kai-megali-sunodo . The letter states that unless the pan-Orthodox Council makes substantial changes in the document on relations with the rest of the Christian world, the Council can result in new schisms. The monasteries urge that the early Orthodox councils, which relate to Patriarch Photios and St. Gregory Palamas [Fourth Council of Constantinople (879-880) and the Fifth Council of Constantinople (1341-1351)] and which condemned such Catholic doctrines as the filoque and papal primacy, be recognized as Ecumenical Councils. With respect to the use of the term “church” in the document, the letter states that the phrase “Christian denominations and confessions” should be substituted when referring to the non-Orthodox. The letter furthermore expresses concerns about common prayers and symbols such as embraces by Orthodox leaders with the non-Orthodox.
The monasteries of Mt. Athos have always been very opposed to ecumenism, so this letter does not come as a surprise. It is interesting that this letter was not made public until after Patriarch Kirill, who signed the draft document on relations to the rest of the Christian world, had completed his visit to Mt. Athos. As you know, the pan-Orthodox Council will only be able to adopt a document if there is a complete consensus among the 14 Local Orthodox Churches, so that any one Local Church has in effect a veto. The moral support of the Holy Mountain may make it easier for conservative Local Churches, such as Georgia and Bulgaria, to exercise their vetoes with respect to parts or all of the document on relations with the rest of the Christian world.
Amen.gr has reported that Patriarch Kirill has sent a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew expressing concern about the proposed seating of the primates at the pan-Orthodox Council. http://www.amen.gr/article/epistoli-kyrillou-pros-vartholomaio-prota-na-lythei-pos-tha-kathisoume-kai-meta-i-synodos Excerpts from the letter have been quoted at http://www.tovima.gr/society/article/?aid=804018 . Patriarch Kirill proposes that all of the primates be seated at the same semicircular table. He also states that the non-Orthodox observers should be positioned so they are not in the spotlight and not part of “the common image” of the Council. I assume that this reflects the reality that conservative Orthodox may be upset and suspicious if they see a Catholic cardinal, with his bright read cassock, among the Orthodox bishops at the Council.
Today the Ecumenical Patriarchate has issued a communique from its Synod relating to the Qatar issue. http://www.ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=gr&id=2158&tla=gr From the poor Google translation, it appears that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is creating a committee of the Antioch and Jerusalem Patriarchates to discuss the Qatar issue immediately after the conclusion of the pan-Orthodox Council. However, in my opinion, it is not clear, especially in light of the recent communique from the bishops of the Patriarchate of Antioch, that Antioch will consider the establishment of the committee to be a temporary solution. The reality is that after the Council, Antioch will have no bargaining power or leverage to compel Jerusalem to withdraw its jurisdictional claim with respect to Qatar.
If any of you who are Greek-speakers believes that I have misstated the substance of these Greek articles, please let me know.
Not surprisingly, the Orthodox Metropolia of Kazan has immediately issued a press release that there has been no discussion of Pope Francis coming to Kazan on July 21 for the laying of the cornerstone for the reconstructed cathedral at the Mother of God Monastery. http://www.kazan-mitropolia.ru/newses/eparh_newses/kaznews/?id=60253 The Catholic parish pastor in Kazan has confirmed this. http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=120669 I believe that Metropolitan Feofan does not want a controversy of a papal visit to Russian to overshadow this important construction project which will depend in part on contributions from the Orthodox faithful.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
30 May 2016: Antioch - not solved
I am sorry for bothering you with the frequency of these reports. However, especially in these final days before the pan-Orthodox Council, significant events have been occurring on a daily basis.
The official website of the Patriarchate of Antioch has now posted an English translation of the communicate relating to last week’s meeting of its bishops. http://www.antiochpatriarchate.org/en/page/%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%B9%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AC%D9%85%D8%B9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D9%86%D8%B7%D8%A7%D9%83%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%82%D8%AF%D8%B3/1433/ In reading the English translation, I find no support for the article posted by Romfea.gr that the bishops decided to “put on ice” the Qatar dispute until after the pan-Orthodox Council. The following are the relevant provisions of the communique:
The holy fathers discussed all the details and documents of the great orthodox synod which is about to be held on June 17 in Crete, under great changes that reach, as a result, all the orthodox churches, societies and believers.
The holy fathers emphasized the importance of the Antiochian active participation in the great synod which had been prepared ever since the sixties of the past century. They also welcomed all efforts exerted so as to give the synod the chance to express the orthodox testimony which is one in the whole world. They agreed upon a common formulation of the Antiochian attitude concerning the topics which must be discussed on the agenda of the synod so as to reach the conscience of the whole world. They left the sessions of the Antiochian synod opened for the sake of molding the final attitude regarding the great orthodox synod under the light of what might happen concerning the peaceful and positive Antiochian initiative which His Beatitude John X expressed before the delegation of the ecumenical patriarchate who had visited him in last April concerning the finding of a final ecclesial solution to the conflict with the patriarchate of Jerusalem.
The holy synod of Antioch formed a clerical and lay committee for the continuation of the efforts related to the great orthodox synod, whose mission is basically foreseeing, studying, detecting all internal and external attitudes of the orthodox churches, to carry the recommendations in regard, to the holy Antiochian synod, and take the proper act and resolution before the beginning of the works of the synod, and for its sake. As concerning the minutes of the work of the great orthodox synod, the holy fathers of the Antiochian synod have decided to accept all the suggested moderations which the advisory committee appointed by His Beatitude has noticed and whose mission designates finding a clear formulation that takes into consideration the discussion of the synod in that regard. They also decided to form a media -Antiochian committee to cope with the works of the great orthodox synod, and explain the Antiochian attitude towards all the discussed issues, form an Antiochian committee that reports and contributes to the formation of the synod message which will result from the great orthodox synod.
From the foregoing, it is apparent that the Patriarchate of Antioch is withholding its final attitude toward the Council until it receives the response of Jerusalem to Antioch’s proposal given to the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s delegation in April. In fact, Romfea.gr today has posted a new article that Antioch is awaiting the response of Jerusalem on the Qatar issue. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/8606-to-patriarxeio-antioxeias-perimenei-apantisi-stin-protoboulia-tou
On Saturday, the Vatican announced that Archbishop Celestino Migliore, apostolic nuncio to Poland, is being transferred to Moscow to be the new apostolic nuncio to the Russian Federation. http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2016/05/28/0383/00893.html In an interview with KAI, Archbishop Migliore stated that he learned of his new assignment at the end of February after the Havana meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis. http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=7&id=68130 Hieromonk Stefan (Igumnov) of the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR told Interfax that he was confident that the new nuncio will make "a significant contribution to the development of relations between the Russian Orthodox Church and Roman Catholic Church, which today are growing, especially after the meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis in Havana". http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Msgr.-Migliore,-nuncio-in-Russia.-The-Moscow-Patriarchate%E2%80%99s-hopes-for-collaboration-37631.html As you know, Patriarch Kirill and the Polish Catholic Bishops Conference signed a joint message in August 2012 to the Polish and Russian peoples. The letter urged reconciliation of the churches and peoples of the two countries. Perhaps Archbishop Migliore will now be a form of “spiritual bridge” between Poland and Russia.
You can see a very nice news video (less than 3 minutes) of the large Corpus Christi procession in the streets of Moscow yesterday at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5br1xtD_QqA#t=18 . It is certainly a sign of better Orthodox – Catholic relations.
On July 21, a cornerstone will be laid for the very large cathedral to be built at the Mother of God Monastery at the site where Matrona found the original Kazan icon in 1579. The original cathedral and bell tower had been destroyed by the communists in the 1930s. The July 21 event is of special interest to Catholics because the Vatican copy of the Kazan icon now has its permanent home at the Mother of God Monastery. The following article discusses this future event and speculates that Patriarch Kirill, President Putin, and perhaps even Pope Francis will be there for the cornerstone ceremony. http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=120645 Although I would be amazed if Pope Francis is there, it is possible that Patriarch Kirill will be there. Patriarch Kirill was scheduled to make a three-day visit to Kazan beginning September 28, 2012. However, the night before the visit, after all of the local preparations had been made, the Patriarch suddenly cancelled his visit to Kazan. http://www.kazan-mitropolia.ru/newses/kaznews/?ID=36778 No explanation was every given for the cancellation. As far as I know, the cancellation remains a mystery. However, now a visit by the Patriarch to Kazan is overdue.
On Saturday at dawn, thousands of Muslims gathered to pray before Hagia Sophia and demanded the right to use the former church for prayer. http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Muslims-in-front-of-the-St.-Sophia-mosque-for-the-conquest-of-Constantinople-and-the-neo-Ottoman-glory-of-Erdogan-37627.html You can see a short video of the events of Saturday morning at https://www.cihan.com.tr/en/dawn-prayer-performed-in-front-of-hagia-sophia-vCHMjA4NjAyMS8wLzIv.htm .
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
28 May 2016: Temporary solution - Antioch?
The bishops of the Patriarchate of Antioch completed their annual meeting at Balamand yesterday (Friday), and a communique in Arabic was issued describing the results of the meeting. http://www.antiochpatriarchate.org/ar/page/%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%A7%D9%86-%D8%B5%D8%A7%D8%AF%D8%B1-%D8%B9%D9%86-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AC%D9%85%D8%B9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D9%86%D8%B7%D8%A7%D9%83%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D9%82%D8%AF%D8%B3/1433/ The Patriarchate’s website states that an English translation of the communique is being prepared, but it has not yet been posted as of the writing of this report. Using the Google translation tool for the Arabic, it is clear to me that the bishops discussed all of the issues relating to the pan-Orthodox Council and stressed the great importance of the effective participation of the Patriarchate of Antioch in the Council for which preparation began in the 1960s. Unfortunately, the machine translation was not clear with respect to certain other aspects of the communique relating to the Council. However, this morning Romfea.gr posted an article in Greek relating to this meeting. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/8557-ston-pago-to-katar-gia-na-metexoun-stin-panorthodoji This article states that the bishops decided to refer the Qatar dispute to a special committee. According to the article, this removes from the Patriarch of Antioch the personal responsibility for resolving the dispute and clears the way for the Patriarch and Antioch’s 24-person delegation to participate fully in the pan-Orthodox Council. The article continues that “special church observers” have reported that Antioch has “put on ice” its dispute with Jerusalem over Qatar. If this is true, it would be very good news.
The website of the Serbian Orthodox Church in North and South America has now posted a good English translation of the communique of the assembly of bishops of the Serbian Patriarchate. http://serborth.org/05262016a.html With respect to the dispute between the Patriarchates of Serbia and Romania mentioned in my last report, the English translation states: It was noted that the relations between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Sister Orthodox Churches are exceptionally good, fully in the spirit of the Church’s unity and conciliarity, with one unfortunate exception – the Romanian Patriarchate, whose bishops and clergy for years now - in a non-canonical manner and not in the spirit of brotherly love - enter in the jurisdiction of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Eastern Serbia, particularly in the Timok region. After many past addresses and appeals, unfortunately unsuccessful thus far, the Assembly has once more called upon the Romanian Church to immediately cease this practice which is destructive for the church; otherwise, the problem will be addressed at the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, and in the event that this anti-canonical practice continue even after the Council – the Serbian Orthodox Church, with sincere pain but for the good of the Church – will be forced to cut all liturgical and canonical relations with the Romanian Orthodox Church. From this translation, it appears that communion will not be severed unless Romania continues the alleged acts after the completion of the pan-Orthodox Council. This indicates that communion between the two Local Churches will continue throughout the entire pan-Orthodox Council and that the dispute will not affect Orthodox unity during the course of the Council. This would also be very good news.
Patriarch Kirill arrived at Mt. Athos yesterday with a large church delegation and is there today. See articles, photos, and videos at http://www.patriarchia.ru/. According to Pravoslavie.ru, the delegation consists of 96 persons including the heads of many monasteries in Russia. http://www.pravoslavie.ru/93688.html President Putin is also at Mt. Athos today. http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=63188
Vatican Insider has posted an interesting article on how the Vatican has improved relations between Belarus and the EU. http://www.lastampa.it/2016/05/28/vaticaninsider/eng/world-news/vatican-and-belarus-a-dialogue-in-the-name-of-religious-coexistence-cO1H0XpN3hI8nA08QmwKtO/pagina.html The article also includes the following paragraph: In fact, a week ago Francis, at the end of the General Audience, met with ten Orthodox priests from the Moscow Patriarchate, representatives of theological institutes in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, who spent a week in Rome, guests for the first time of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, “to deepen the direct knowledge of the Holy See and visit the holy places.” After the historic meeting between the Pope and Patriarch Kirill in Havana - as explained to L’Osservatore Romano by the Dominican Hyacinthe Destivelle, an official of the Dicastery - various ecumenical cultural projects were initiated with the Orthodox Church. Among them specifically is “the organization of short but intense study visits for priests who are invited to learn about the diverse ecclesial and spiritual reality.” Recently, moreover, there were ten young Catholic priests who traveled to Moscow.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
26 May 2016 (2): More developments and difficulties
It has been reported by Amen.gr that one of the decisions made by the bishops of the Orthodox Church of Greece at its meeting that ended yesterday is that only the Orthodox constitute a “Church” and that Catholics and other Christians do not. Therefore, in the pan-Orthodox document devoted to relations to the rest of the Christian world, it is improper to use “church” for such non-Orthodox and that the terms confession and community should be used instead. http://www.amen.gr/article/apistefti-apofasi-tis-ellinikis-ierarxias-i-romaiokatholiki-den-einai-ekklisia It has also been reported that such bishops as Metropolitan Chrysostom of Messinia strongly opposed this decision but were outvoted by the conservative bishops. http://www.tovima.gr/society/article/?aid=802600 In contrast, the Catholic Church considers the Orthodox to constitute “Church” but considers various Protestants to be “ecclesial communities.” See paragraph 17 of the declaration Dominus Iesus (http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000806_dominus-iesus_en.html ). It is certainly possible that conflicts between the various Local Orthodox Churches on the document devoted to relations to the rest of the Christian world will be so strong that no consensus will be reached on this document at the pan-Orthodox Council. Therefore, this document would fall into the same category as the earlier documents on the calendar and the granting of autocephaly where no consensus could be reached.
The Assembly of Bishop of the Serbian Patriarchate has now ended its annual meeting. At the meeting the bishops approved a document stating the position of the Patriarchate on the various issues facing the pan-Orthodox Council. http://www.spc.rs/sr/saopshtenje_za_javnost_svetog_arhijerejskog_sabora_0 However, as best as I can determine, that document has not yet been made public.
Sadly, the Serbian bishops added a new “headache” for the pan-Orthodox Council. In its official communique relating to the Assembly, the Serbian bishops stated that its jurisdictional dispute with the Romanian Patriarchate will be brought before the pan-Orthodox Council, and if the dispute is not resolved, the Serbian Patriarchate “will be forced to terminate liturgical and canonical communion with the Romanian Orthodox Church.”
Today, the Ecumenical Patriarchate posted a list of its delegates to the pan-Orthodox Council. https://www.patriarchate.org/-/anakoinothen-26-05-2016-?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2Fhome
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
26 May 2016 (1): Georgia & Greece on Council documents
The Holy Synod of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Georgia met today (Wednesday) to discuss further the proposed documents for the pan-Orthodox Council. As you recall, the Synod had previously discussed the documents at its meeting on February 12. http://patriarchate.ge/geo/wminda-sinodi/wminda-sinodis-ganchinebani/wminda-sinodis-ganchineba-wminda-da/ The minutes of today’s meeting have now been posted at http://patriarchate.ge/geo/wminda-sinodis-sxdomis-oqmi-25/ (use the Google translation tool). Today’s minutes detail specific needed amendments to the documents on marriage and the Church’s mission in the modern world. With respect to the document on relations with the rest of the Christian world, the Synod makes no attempt to suggest specific amendments. Rather, the minutes state that the document contains “ecclesiological and terminological errors and needs serious reworking.” The minutes also state: “If these changes do not take place, the Church will not sign the text.”
Today, the bishops of the Orthodox Church of Greece concluded a special two-day meeting to discuss the documents. The official news release issued at the conclusion of today’s meeting can be read at http://www.amen.gr/article/keimeno-pros-ton-lao-gia-tin-panorthodoksi-synodo . It appears that the assembled bishops made a substantial number of proposed amendments, but specific details are not given in the release. It appears that next week the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece will incorporate the proposed amendments into the texts, which will then be made public.
The annual meeting of the assembly of bishops of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Serbia is still continuing. The assembly began on May 14. An important item on the agenda is a review of the texts for the pan-Orthodox Council. There have been no official announcements to date relating to this review, and the Patriarchate has made public very little information on the course of the assembly in general.
In an address on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Church Relations, Metropolitan Hilarion acknowledged that in view of the discussions within some of the Local Churches, some of the documents “need to be improved.” https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/05/19/news131357/
Under the original plan for the pan-Orthodox Council, the texts of all of the various documents were to be agreed upon by the primates of the 14 Local Orthodox Churches at their meeting at Chambesy last January. These documents would then be submitted to the pan-Orthodox Council which could amend the submitted documents only with a complete consensus of all of the 14 Local Churches. It now appears that a great deal of work will need to be done within an extremely short period of time to arrive at a 100-percent consensus by the 14 Local Churches on the various texts. The primates will meet again on June 17, and the pan-Orthodox Council begins the next day. In addition, the jurisdictional dispute between the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem relating to Qatar still needs to be resolved.
On May 19, Interfax quoted the hope of Patriarch Kirill “to visit Athos on May 27 and remain there till May 29” to celebrate the 1000th anniversary of the presence of Russian monasticism on Mt. Athos. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=12953
The schedule for the visit of Pope Francis to Armenia, June 24-26, has been released. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/05/13/pope_francis_official_schedule_for_armenia_visit_in_june/1229546 As far as I know, Pope Francis still plans to visit Georgia in September. http://www.news.va/en/news/papal-visits-to-armenia-then-georgia-and-azerbaija
Here are some more websites devoted to the pan-Orthodox Council: https://www.orthodoxcouncil.org/ (Ecumenical Patriarchate); http://sobor2016.patriarchia.ru/ (Moscow Patriarchate);
http://panorthodoxcemes.blogspot.com/ (a blog on theological aspects of the Council).
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
10 May 2016: Serbian Bishops Assembly & more
The Serbian Patriarchate will hold an assembly of all of its bishops beginning this Sunday. http://www.spc.rs/sr/sazvan_sveti_arhijerejski_sabor_srpske_pravoslavne_crkve_0 Although this is an annual event, it is very likely that the pan-Orthodox Council and its draft documents will be discussed. The Patriarchate has posted on its website an interview of Bishop Maksim of Western America with a footnote by Bishop Irinej of Backa. http://www.spc.rs/sr/intervju_episkop_zapadnoamerichki_maksim Bishop Maksim express a generally positive and optimistic view of the pan-Orthodox Council.
On May 4, the Moscow Patriarchate posted the names of its 24 delegates to the pan-Orthodox Council. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/05/04/news131113/ The delegates include the eight permanent members of the Holy Synod. The list also includes the four delegates names by the Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) who will attend the pan-Orthodox Council in addition to Metropolitan Onufry. http://news.church.ua/2016/04/19/zhurnali-zasidannya-svyashhennogo-sinodu-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi-vid-19-kvitnya-2016-roku/ (entry 22). The remaining 12 members of the delegation reflect a broad geographic distribution. There is one bishop from each of the following areas: Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, Japan, Germany (ROCOR), Italy (and foreign institutions generally), Siberia (Novosibirsk), and the Russian Far East (Magadan). Only three of the 12 are from the Russian heartland: Rostov-on-Don, Nizhny Novgorod, and Ekaterinburg. However, it should be noted that Metropolitan Merkury of Rostov has had substantial international involvement and was responsible for the patriarchal parishes in the United States from 2000 to 2009. The best of my knowledge, only two members of the delegation have publically criticized the pan-Orthodox Council or its proposed documents: Metropolitan Agafangel of Odessa and Archbishop Mark of Berlin.
Although the Bishops’ Council of the Moscow Patriarchate has approved the proposed documents, I believe it is likely that the Moscow Patriarchate’s delegation will now seek some modification of the documents in view of the strong criticism coming from conservative elements. Thus, Metropolitan Hilarion recently stated that the pan-Orthodox Council is “not yet fully prepared, as can be seen from the published documents and from the debate around them.” https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/05/02/news130985/
One of the key issues of dispute is the use of the word “Church” for non-Orthodox denominations. Critics of the proposed document on relations to the rest of the Christian world state that the Creed refers to “One…Church” and that “Church” is the Orthodox Church. Therefore, it is improper to refer to the non-Orthodox denominations as churches. Some critics go so far as to contend that because the other denominations are not part of the “One…Church,” they are not really Christian. Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin, former head of the Moscow Patriarchate’s department on church and society, has proposed specific revisions to the draft document on relations to the rest of the Christian world. Instead of using the word “church” with respect to the non-Orthodox, he substitutes in the document the phrase “communities that call themselves Christian.” http://pravoslav-pol.livejournal.com/48495.html Needless to say, the use of this phase in a final pan-Orthodox document would cause considerable indignation among the non-Orthodox of the world. A more sensitive criticism has been made by Archbishop Mark of Berlin. http://orthodoxie.com/intervention-de-larcheveque-de-berlin-et-dallemagne-eglise-orthodoxe-russe-hors-frontieres-au-colloque-organise-a-luniversite-saint-tikhon-de-moscou-au-sujet-du-concile-pa/ (French translation).
As you know, the Catholic Church has also faced the issues of whether “One.. Church” includes other denominations beside the Catholic Church. The Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith addressed the “one church” issue in paragraph 17 of the declaration Dominus Iesus (approved by Pope John Paul II). http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000806_dominus-iesus_en.html See also the letter by Cardinal Ratzinger (approved by Pope John Paul II) on the use and misuse of the term “sister churches.” http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_20000630_chiese-sorelle_en.html
In other news, the home page of official website for the pan-Orthodox Council is now online. https://www.holycouncil.org/home Also the official website of the Georgian Patriarchate is working again. The February 12, 2016, minutes of the Holy Synod of the Georgian Patriarchate relating to the pan-Orthodox Council are now posted at this site. http://patriarchate.ge/geo/wminda-sinodi/wminda-sinodis-ganchinebani/wminda-sinodis-ganchineba-wminda-da/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
28 April 2016: Joint Catholic-Russian Orthodox initiative in Syria
Asia News has reported that the first concrete step to implement the Havana declaration has been taken by Russian Orthodox and Catholics in Russia. http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Catholics-and-Russian-Orthodox-join-forces-for-the-children-of-Homs-37332.html
During the period April 6-7, Catholic Archbishop Pezzi (Mother of God Archdiocese in Moscow), Hieromonk Stefan Igumnov (Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Relations),and Peter Humeniak (Catholic charity Kirche in Not) visited Damascus, Beirut, and Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley (at the border between Syria and Lebanon, where a large number of Syrian refugees have found shelter). http://www.cathmos.ru/content/ru/publication-2016-04-26-13-20-17.html ; http://www.churchinneed.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=8945&news_iv_ctrl=1461 On April 21, the three held a news conference in Moscow to describe the results of their visit. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=dujour&div=68 ; http://www.cathmos.ru/content/ru/publication-2016-04-23-12-34-14.html#.VyE4uzArJWN . Two of the objectives of this cooperative effort are to restore Christian shrines in Syria and to help the children of Homs.
Pravoslavie.ru (Russia’s most popular website, operated by Moscow’s Sretensky Monastery, headed by Bishop Tikhon of Egorievsk) has posted a report that the monasteries of Mt. Athos will hold a meeting after Bright Week to discuss the draft documents relating to the pan-Orthodox Council. http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/92833.htm The report also includes a link to the letters by a number of these monasteries that have already taken a critical position with respect to aspects of these documents. For a number of weeks, Pravoslavie.ru has been immediately translating and posting the writings of significant church organizations or persons attacking various parts of the documents. On April 25, Bishop Tikhon gave an interview to RIA Novesti relating to ecumenism in Russia. http://ria.ru/religion/20160425/1419911118.html He stated that the current ecumenical activity is perceived by a significant part of the flock of the Russian Orthodox Church "without sympathy" and that most of the faithful do not see "any real future for ecumenical ideas in the Church." According to him, the theology of ecumenism is “sad and far-fetched” while the theology of anti-ecumenism is “inspired and based on the patristic tradition.” However, earlier, Bishop Tikhon gave a sermon that has now been translated into English. Toward the end of the homily, he stated: “We must know the boundaries within which our association with the heterodox, including the Catholics, can take place. We can be friends with them. We can help them. We can receive help from them. We can work together on such tasks as those about which His Holiness the Patriarch spoke, which words we heard: in order to preserve the Christian world with its Christian values. But we cannot serve Divine Liturgy with the heterodox. We cannot pray together, or accept their teaching of the faith. We cannot place our Church under the bishop of Rome. These things are obvious. If we will remember and fulfill these patristic commandments, then we will bring benefit to both ourselves and to those in the non-Orthodox world to whom we can witness Orthodoxy. And we will not become morose isolationists who don’t want to see or listen to anyone but ourselves. And we will be open and full of the faith and love that the Savior has commanded us to have. Only in this way can an Orthodox Christian contribute his widow’s mite, to bring the non-Orthodox to the true Church: by prayer and the example of our lives. There is nothing else we can do. No theological conferences, no discussions and agreements, nor agitation can lead to anything like that.” http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/90995.htm
The Greek website Romfea.gr has reported that a meeting will be held at the Phanar in May between the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem in an attempt to resolve their Qatar dispute. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/7863-gefures-sto-fanari-rixnoun-antioxeia-kai-ierosoluma Prayers are definitely needed so that this dispute can be resolved before the pan-Orthodox Council.
Pope Francis has authorized the promulgation of the decrees recognizing the martyrdom of Archbishop Vincenzo Prennushi of Durrës and his 37 companions, who were martyred by the Albanian Communist government between 1945 and 1974. As a result they will be beatified in the near future, probably in Albania. http://agensir.it/chiesa/2016/04/27/soon-to-be-beatified-38-albanian-martyrs-a-story-of-suffering-and-christian-witness/ According to this English-language article, old people still remember that the Catholic archbishop enjoyed walking along the streets of the then Durrws (Durres) with the Orthodox priest and also with the Imam of the city.
For those of you celebrating the resurrection of Our Lord on Sunday, I wish you a very blessed and joyful Pascha!
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
23 April 2016: Bulgaria on relations with other Christians
Yesterday, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate issued an important decision relating to the draft pan-Orthodox Council document “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.” The text of its decision has been posted in Bulgarian on the official website of the Bulgarian Patriarchate. http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=201851 The decision has been summarized in Russian at http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=120006 . You can use the Google translation tool to translate these sites.
The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate by a unanimous vote specifically found to be unacceptable certain language in paragraphs 4, 5, 6, 12 and 16 of the document. (The DECR’s English translation of these paragraphs and the entire draft document can be read at https://mospat.ru/en/2016/01/28/news127362/.) The essence of the objections by the Holy Synod appears to be the failure of the document to acknowledge the following: “ Besides the Holy Orthodox Church, there are no other churches, but only heresies and schisms, and to call the latter ‘churches’ is theologically, dogmatically, and canonically completely wrong.” “Christian unity” has never been lost, because Holy Orthodox Church has never lost its unity and never will. “[T]hose who have fallen into heresy or schism must first return to the Orthodox faith and prove obedience to the Holy Church and then, through repentance, they may be accepted into the Church.” The decision also states that it is the “final, formal, and unchangeable” position of the Bulgarian Patriarchate with respect to the pan-Orthodox Council. Under the consensus rules governing the pan-Orthodox Council, the document on relations to the rest of the Christian world can only be approved if it is in a form acceptable to all of the Local Orthodox Churches, including the Bulgarian Patriarchate.
As you recall, the Holy Synod of the Georgian Patriarchate has also expressed major reservations with respect to this document, but will apparently not make its final decision until next month. On April 13, the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia expressed in detail its concerns on this and other documents. http://www.synod.com/synod/eng2016/20160413_ensynodposlaniye.html (complete text in English).
On April 19, Metropolitan Hilarion made a presentation at a conference, entitled “The Pan-Orthodox Council: Opinions and Expectations,” held at St. Tikhon’s Orthodox University in Moscow. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/04/20/news130352/ (English article). According to the DECR’s more detailed Russian article on the conference, one of the observations made by Metropolitan Hilarion at the conference was the following: “The documents, which were discussed at the conference, did have some language that we would like to improve. And believe me, we devoted a lot of effort to ensure that these documents are better than they were at the beginning. But as I said in my report, we have not succeeded in everything: some of our amendments were not heard and failed. Therefore, if we can now formulate any specific amendments to the texts, there will still be another opportunity to present these amendments to the Pan-Orthodox Council. Probably, this can be done by His Holiness Patriarch Kirill during the June 17 meeting of the Primates, which will precede the Council.” [The Council itself begins on June 18.] https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/04/20/news130352/ The full Russian text of Metropolitan Hilarion’s opening remarks at the conference can be read at https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/04/19/news130368/. The final resolution adopted by the conference can be read at https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/04/20/news130379/ .
On April 20 at the Moscow Theological Academy, Metropolitan Hilarion delivered an address in which he strongly condemned those who have criticized the Havana declaration signed by Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis. The complete text of Metropolitan Hilarion’s long and scholarly address can be read at http://www.mpda.ru/news/text/4033407.html .
On a different subject, the Moscow Patriarchate’s Department of External Relations has now been authorized to bestow on eligible individuals the “Award of St. Mark of Ephesus.” https://mospat.ru/en/2016/04/18/news130317/ St. Mark of Ephesus is, of course, famous for his refusal to agree to the union with Catholics resulting from the Council of Florence.
I am sure that all of you have read in the media about the meeting on the island of Lesbos between Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece. The English version of the complete text of their joint declaration can be read at https://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/en/speeches/2016/april/documents/papa-francesco_20160416_lesvos-dichiarazione-congiunta.html . A video of the entire emotional meeting of the three hierarchs with refugees can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bu5i5xWX-LY .
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
5 April 2016: Pope Francis to Greece, Apr. 14-15
Today (Tuesday) Philippa Hitchen at Vatican Radio provided a report on a visit by Pope Francis to Greece. The report stated: A statement from the Holy Synod, or ruling body of the Orthodox Church in Athens, said the Pope had expressed a desire to visit one of the islands in order to draw attention to the humanitarian problems of the migrants, as well as the need for “an immediate cessation of hostilities in the wider Mediterranean region”. The head of the Holy See press office, Fr Federico Lombardi, said there have been discussions about a possible papal visit, but he could not confirm any dates or details. The statement from the Orthodox Church proposed a visit to the island of Lesbos, where hundreds of thousands of migrants and refugees have arrived in recent months. Many of them are fleeing from conflicts or persecution in the Middle East and Africa, while many so-called economic migrants are seeking better living conditions in Europe or other Western countries. A communique from the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew 1st of Constantinople on Tuesday confirmed he would also be visiting the island of Lesbos to highlight the plight of the refugees and migrants throughout the region. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/04/05/orthodox_church_of_greece_on_possible_papal_visit_to_lesbos/1220467
The Greek website Romfea.gr now has further details. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/7447-oikoumenikos-arxiepiskopos-kai-papas-fragkiskos-sti-lesbo It states that the visit will be made at the end of next week. Pope Francis will be accompanied by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and by Archbishop Hieronymos, the primate of the Orthodox Church of Greece. Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras of Greece will also be present. The Greek website Amen.gr has posted the full text of the communique of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on the subject. http://www.amen.gr/article/to-oikoumeniko-patriarxeio-gia-tin-episkepsi-papa-patriarxi-arxiepiskopou-stin-lesvo It confirms that the Ecumenical Patriarch and Archbishop Hieronymus will be there and that the visit will occur in the very near future. Amen.gr has also posted the statement by the Standing Holy Synod of the Church of Greece ( http://www.amen.gr/article/oikoumenikos-patriarxis-vartholomaios-kai-papas-fragiskos-sti-lesvo-gia-tous-prosfyges-mazi-me-ton-arxiepiskopo-ieronymo ) and the invitation by the President of Greece to the Pope (http://www.amen.gr/article/i-prosklisi-tou-proedrou-prpavlopoulou-ston-papa-fragisko). Reuters has just posted a report that a Greek government official has stated that the visit will occur April 14-15. http://www.reuters.com/article/europe-migrants-greece-pope-idUSL5N17830R This may actually be April 14 or 15 as the Holy Synod indicated that the visit would only last a few hours.
Although the purpose of the visit is to highlight the plight of migrants, it will also be the first meeting between Pope Francis and Archbishop Hieronymus. Pope John Paul II had met with the previous primate of the Church of Greece, Archbishop Christodoulos, in May 2001. Still, the forthcoming meeting between the primate of the Church of Greece and the Pope may weaken the attacks by Orthodox conservatives who are now focused on Patriarch Kirill for his recent meeting with the Pope.
In other news, Amen.gr has posted a detailed memorandum from Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia to Archbishop Hieronymos and the metropolitans of the Orthodox Church of Greece. http://www.amen.gr/article/ypomnima-tou-mitropoliti-messinias-gia-to-panorthodokso-keimeno-sxeseis-tis-orthodoksou-ekklisias-pros-ton-loipon-xristianikon-kosmon In the memorandum, Metropolitan Chrysostomos answers the criticism by Orthodox conservatives to the proposed pan-Orthodox document regarding relations with the rest of the Christian world. Metropolitan Chrysostomos is the representative of the Church of Greece on the Secretariat for the pan-Orthodox Council and is also Dean of the University of Athens’ Faculty of Theology.
Metropolitan Germanos of Ilia (Church of Greece), a member of the delegation of the Church of Greece to the recent synaxis in Chambesy, has posted on the website of his Metropolia his own personal notes of the proceedings. http://www.imilias.gr/enimerosi-eidiseis/eidiseis/598-2016-02-24-06-42-31.html These notes have much more detail than the official communique.
In an interview with the National Herald, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) expressed optimism that the Antioch – Jerusalem dispute will be resolved, but stated that the pan-Orthodox Council will proceed even if it is not resolved. http://www.romfea.gr/sinenteyxeis/7338-o-gallias-emmanouil-gia-tin-megali-sunodo
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
31 March 2016: Secretariat & Qatar dispute
The Secretariat for the pan-Orthodox Council has held its first meeting. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/03/29/news129831/ The meeting began yesterday (Tuesday) and concluded today (Wednesday) at Chambesy. A few hours ago, a communique was issued by the Secretariat. The French version of the communique can be read at http://orthodoxie.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/Communique_fr_final.pdf . The Greek version can be read at http://www.amen.gr/article/anakoinothen-synadisis-prokathimenon-kai-ekprosopon-ellinorthodokson-ekklision-mesis-anatolis . As was true for the recent synaxis of primates, Radio Trinitas of the Romanian Patriarchate was the first to announce the results of the meeting. http://basilica.ro/hotararile-secretariatului-panortodox-al-sfantului-si-marelui-sinod/ Having to rely on the Google translation tool, I found the description by Radio Trinitas the clearest. I have pasted this translation at the bottom of this report.
You may recall that I earlier reported the remarks made by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France on March 11 in Moscow. At that time, he referred to the convening of an “enlarged” secretariat at Chambesy. Presumably the enlarged secretariat would have more than one representative per Local Church and would have greater powers than originally envisioned by the Rules. However, we can now see that the enlarged secretariat was apparently not acceptable to all of the Local Churches. At the March 29-30 meeting, there was only one representative per Local Church. Furthermore, some of the Local Churches were not represented by a bishop. Moscow was represent by Archpriest Nikolai Balashov, and Jerusalem was represented by Prof. Theodoros Yiangou.
While preparations continue for the pan-Orthodox Council, worries are increasing with respect to the inability of the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem to resolve their jurisdiction dispute over Qatar, in spite of repeated efforts by others to mediate this issue. The potential “nightmare” under the consensus rule is that one Local Orthodox Church can withhold its consent on one issue unless its demand on another unrelated issue is granted. On the one hand, one can say that Antioch is holding the entire pan-Orthodox Council and its 50 years of preparation “hostage” over its demand that Jerusalem withdraw its bishop from Qatar. On the other hand, Antioch can argue that its suspension of communion with Jerusalem has not been effective in causing Jerusalem to withdraw its bishop and that its only remaining way of exerting pressure is to withhold consent with respect to the pan-Orthodox Council. If the pan-Orthodox Council is held and the Jerusalem Patriarchate still has its bishop in Qatar, the Patriarchate of Antioch will be powerless to change the situation, and Jerusalem will have a no incentive to withdraw its bishop.
The Greek website Romfea.gr has posted an article concerning Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s great desire to show to the world through the pan-Orthodox Council that Orthodoxy is united and ready to meet the challenges of the coming years. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/7306-ustati-prospatheia-tou-oikoumenikou-patriarxi-gia-enotita It points out that Metropolitan Tikhon, the primate of the Orthodox Church in America, whose autocephalous status is not recognized by Constantinople, was invited by the Ecumenical Patriarch to concelebrate the Divine Liturgy with him at the Fanar last Sunday. http://oca.org/news/headline-news/the-sunday-of-orthodoxy-visit-of-metropolitan-tikhon-to-the-ecumenical-patr The Ecumenical Patriarchate was also involved in settling the dispute within the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia. However, the Qatar issue still remains.
The following appears to be two very recent efforts to solve the Qatar issue: According to Romfea.gr, Archbishop Chrysostomos, the primate of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, invited the Patriarchs of Jerusalem and Antioch to come to Cyprus to settle their differences. However, only the Patriarch of Jerusalem came yesterday, and the Patriarchate of Antioch only sent a representative. http://www.romfea.gr/patriarxeia-ts/patriarxeio-ierosolimon/7292-epibebaiosi-romfeagr-gia-to-thema-tou-katar According to the Greek website Amen.gr, the Ecumenical Patriarch requested the Patriarch of Antioch to meet him with this afternoon (Wednesday) at the Fanar or to send a representative. The letter stressed the great amount of work that has been done in preparing for the pan-Orthodox Council. http://www.amen.gr/article/epeigousa-prosklisi-vartholomaiou-ston-patriarxi-adioxeias-na-metavei-sto-fanari ; http://www.tovima.gr/society/article/?aid=788152 . Today, Amen.gr posted another article that implies that Antioch’s reply was that the physical presence of the entire Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch is necessary to resolve the dispute. http://www.amen.gr/article/i-megali-efkairia-pou-den-prepei-na-apebolisei-o-patriarxis-adioxeias My guess is that Antioch will settle for nothing less than a withdrawal by Jerusalem of its jurisdictional claim over Qatar. Antioch might well believe that pressure from the other Local Orthodox Churches should not be focused on it, but rather on Jerusalem.
With respect to other matters, AsiaNews has done an interesting interview of Archbishop Jurkovic, the outgoing apostolic nuncio to the Russian Federation. http://www.asianews.it/news-en/For-the-nuncio-in-Moscow,-relations-are-growing-after-25-years-37069.html (English). An interesting discussion on the topic, "The Cuban declaration: context and perspectives," was held in Moscow on Monday. http://www.blagovest-info.ru/index.php?ss=2&s=3&id=67217 A video of the entire discussion may be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5GC8TRnk5s . I found it especially interesting in that the Orthodox representative was Father Valentin Asmus. Father Valentin is quite conservative and was actually one of two members of the Moscow’s delegation at the 2010 Vienna plenary of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. Using the Google translation tool, I found that his reaction to the Cuban declaration was more positive than I expected from him.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
Delegate Romanian Orthodox Church as a member of the Secretariat was His Eminence Metropolitan Nifon, Archbishop of Targoviste and Patriarchal Exarch.
His Eminence told Radio Trinitas that so far have been taken important and urgent decisions, such as :
"Establishing immediate official website of the Holy and Great Synod will present preparatory documents approved in stages Preconciliar and that will figure on the agenda of the Holy Synod. These documents will be published in the official languages of the Synod: Greek, English, French and Russian. Also, exceptionally, it was accepted and the Arabic language as a working language during the work of the Synod "
"The establishment of special committees within the Secretariat of the Holy and Great Synod:
- Committee for drafting press releases and the message of the Holy Synod in general.
- Committee for the smooth work of the Holy Synod in plenary and in the various committees of the Council.
- Committee introducing amendments following discussions with regulatory immediate translation in the four official languages.
- Committee for accreditation of journalists and media communication.
- Committee for verification and editing will take care of publication of the documents and all decisions synodal "
The Secretariat will prepare in detail the draft program of works Holy and Great Council , His Eminence further added
"The project will now be initiated and continued in a next meeting Secretariat. Also, all Autocephalous Orthodox Churches are expected to make recommendations to bishops and advisers with appropriate skills for each of these committees constituted "
22 March 2016: Cardinal Parolin in Sofia
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, the Vatican’s Secretary of State and the Vatican’s second ranking prelate, has just completed an extremely encouraging trip to Sofia, Bulgaria. One of the primary purposes of the trip was to commemorate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Bulgaria. Yesterday (Monday morning) he met with Bulgaria’s head of state, President Rosen Plevneliev. The Cardinal was presented Bulgaria’s highest honor, the Stara Planina, for his contribution to good relations between Bulgaria and the Holy See. According to the Sofia Globe, the President also invited Pope Francis to visit Bulgaria soon. http://sofiaglobe.com/2016/03/21/bulgaria-confers-highest-state-honour-on-visiting-vatican-secretary-of-state/ In addition, this report stated that “Plevneliev accepted Parolin’s invitation to lead the traditional annual Bulgarian delegation to Rome on May 24, when Bulgaria marks its day of Education and Culture, a day on which Saints Cyril and Methodius are revered for their role in the development of the Slavonic alphabet.”
Later on Monday, Cardinal Parolin had a very cordial meeting with Patriarch Neofit, the primate of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. http://sofiaglobe.com/2016/03/22/vatican-secretary-of-state-holds-talks-with-bulgarian-orthodox-church-head-chief-mufti/ ; http://agensir.it/quotidiano/2016/3/21/cardinal-parolin-meeting-with-bulgarian-patriarch-neofit/ The Bulgarian Patriarchate has issued an official statement (with a number of photos) relating to the meeting. http://bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=198980 The Patriarch recalled that “good relations between Catholics and Orthodox Christians in Bulgaria have a long history.” The statement observed that both sides agreed that relations between Catholics and Orthodox should be governed by what unites us rather than what divides us. The Patriarch expressed appreciation for all that the Catholic Church has done to assist Bulgarian parishes in Western and Central Europe. The meeting was also attended by Metropolitan Anthony, who is responsible for the Bulgarian parishes in Western and Central Europe. The Metropolitan added that 90 percent of the churches used in his eparchy for liturgical services are provided by the Catholic Church. He expressed special appreciation for the use of the church of San Paolo alla Regola, situated at the location in Rome where the Apostle Paul was under house arrest.
Another person at the meeting was the apostolic nuncio to Bulgaria, Archbishop Anselmo Guido Pecorari. The Archbishop stated that when he first arrived in Sofia on his current assignment, the first person to greet him was Patriarch Neofit. He said that the Patriarch was so warm and cordial that he considered him not only the head of the Church but also as a father. http://dveri.bg/wawpd
In my opinion, all of this is quite remarkable when one considers that the Bulgarian Patriarchate is one of the most conservative of the all of the Local Orthodox Churches. It is the one Local Church that has refused to participate in the Orthodox – Catholic international theological dialogue. Together with the Georgia Patriarchate, it has withdrawn from the World Council of Churches.
On another subject, the official English translation of the full text of the “Patriarchal and Synodical Encyclical on the Convocation of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church (March 18, 2016)” is now available. https://www.patriarchate.org/-/patriarchike-kai-synodike-enkyklios-epi-tei-synklesei-tes-agias-kai-megales-synodou-tes-orthodoxou-ekklesias?inheritRedirect=true One of the statements in the encyclical that caught my attention was the following: “The fact that Orthodoxy will express its conciliarity on a global level after the passing of so many centuries constitutes a first and most decisive step that, by the grace of God, is expected to lead to the convening of further Pan-Orthodox Councils, soon thereafter.” This is similar to the idea expressed by Patriarch Daniel of Romania at the synaxis at Chambesy last January, namely that pan-Orthodox Councils should be held every five, seven, or ten years.
Lastly, the Vatican has confirmed that a visit to Armenia by Pope Francis during the second half of June is now being studied. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/03/18/fr_lombardi_papal_visit_to_armenia_in_june_is_being_studied/1216337
For those of you who are celebrating Easter next Sunday, I wish you a very blessed Holy Week!!
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
13 March 2016: Two different presentations
Yesterday, Metropolitan Emmanuel of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate) was the guest of the Saints Cyril and Methodius School of Post-Graduate and Doctoral Studies in Moscow. He and Metropolitan Hilarion were the speakers at a seminar devoted to the forthcoming pan-Orthodox Council. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/03/12/news129319/ A number of bishops also attended. The entire program (almost two hours) may be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vLgEt9TjPLY . Metropolitan Emmanuel’s initial presentation is in French, and he answers various questions in either French or English. His remarks are followed by a Russian translation. Of course, Metropolitan Hilarion’s remarks are in Russian. The remarks by the two men provide the latest news on the pan-Orthodox Council. I found it very interesting how Constantinople and Moscow are now very much working together to make the pan-Orthodox Council a success. Especially in view of past tensions between the two Churches, I believe that this is a very positive development.
At the seminar Metropolitan Hilarion stated that “the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church at the meeting of February 16, 2016, rejected the document [on relations with the rest of the Christian world] because it has fundamental amendments and comments.” With respect to this, Metropolitan Emmanuel stated: “As for the Georgian Church, we have to wait for their comments to understand why they have rejected the document." According to Dr. Tamara Grdzelidze’s Facebook entry (kindly sent to me by two of you), the working group, composed of certain members of the Synod, clergy, and theologians, will continue to work on the document and will present their recommendations to the Holy Synod of the Church of Georgia at their meeting in May following Pascha.
At the end of the seminar, Metropolitan Emmanuel spoke in English of a meeting of an “enlarged” Secretariat to be held in Chambesy before the holding of the Council. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has not yet received from all of the Local Orthodox Churches the names of their representatives for the “enlarged” Secretariat. Under Article 6 of the Rules of the pan-Orthodox Council, the Secretariat consists of one hierarch from each of the Local Orthodox Churches. Presumably, the “enlarged” Secretariat consists of more than one.
On March 6, an international round table "The Russian Orthodox Church and the Havana Declaration - victory or defeat?" was held in St. Petersburg. http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=119057 This presentation was very different from the one in Moscow. Today, the entire presentation was posted on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tIeB502utqU The conclusion reached by all of the speakers, except one, was that it was a great defeat for Orthodoxy. At 1:59:00 on the video, you can see what happened to that one well-known speaker (Deacon Vladimir Vasylyk). The final declaration of the round table has been posted at http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=119068 . On a brighter note, Tass reported that a recent poll in Russia found that 71% of Orthodox Christians support further meetings between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis. http://www.pravmir.com/most-russians-support-further-pope-patriarch-meetings-poll/
An earlier poll found that 76% of Russians reacted positively to possible visit by Pope Francis to Russia. http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=news&div=61995 However, a preparatory step might be for Pope Francis to visit Belarus first. Overall, relations between Catholics and Orthodox have been generally good in Belarus. The head of the Orthodox Church in Belarus, Metropolitan Pavel, has recently stated that a visit by Pope Francis to Belarus is entirely possible provided Patriarch Kirill approves of the visit. http://eng.belta.by/society/view/metropolitan-pavel-does-not-rule-out-popes-visit-to-belarus-89528-2016/ For many years, President Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus has expressed a desire for a papal visit.
The Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) has issued a statement concerning the 70th anniversary of the attempted elimination of the UGCC in 1946. The RISU has posted an English translation as part of a longer article. http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/confessional/interchurch_relations/62786/ It has also posted an appeal by certain Orthodox individuals relating to that event. http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/confessional/interchurch_relations/62730/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
8 March 2016: Greek Church selects Council delegation
Today in Athens, the Holy Synod (79 bishops participating) of the Orthodox Church of Greece held an extraordinary session in which the bishops voted by secret ballot on the membership of the Church’s delegation to the pan-Orthodox Council to be held in Crete in June. The selected members are listed (in Greek) in the following communique of the meeting: http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/6842-anakoinothen-protis-sunedrias-tis-ierarxias In reviewing the list of the selected delegates, I was very interesting in seeing whether Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus was listed as a delegate. I have reported an number of times earlier about Metropolitan Seraphim. In Greece, he has a very high profile, has a large following, and has been extremely vocal in his condemnation of ecumenism. I believe that it is significant that he was not selected to be among the 25 delegates of the Church of Greece to the pan-Orthodox Council. Under the rules of the pan-Orthodox Council, each of the 14 autocephalous Local Churches selects one hierarch to be a member of the important Secretariat of the Council. The Holy Synod selected Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia to be that person. Metropolitan Chrysostomos has been very involved in ecumenical affairs and is a member of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches. He also has a good relationship with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
In my last report, I provided a link that stated that the Holy Synod of the Orthodox Church of Georgia has rejected the document "The relation of the Orthodox Church towards the rest of the Christian world" which was prepared for the upcoming pan-Orthodox Council to be held in Crete in June 2016. The Greek website Amen.gr has now posted a commentary on this news by Protopresbyter Georgios Tsetsis, who was one of the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the 5th Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference, held at Chambesy last October. http://www.amen.gr/article/gegonos-i-provokatsia-i-apofasi-tis-ekklisias-georgias He states that at the October conference, a number of changes were made in this documents at the urging of the Georgian Church. He reasons that the Georgian delegation presumably discussed this document and these changes with the primate and the holy synod when they returned to Georgia. At the subsequent assembly of primates held at Chambesy in January, Patriarch Ilia of the Georgian Church accepted the document and signed it. Father Georgios also questions the accuracy of the report that the Georgian Holy Synod actually rejected the document. He refers to a Facebook entry by Dr. Tamara Grdzelidze (now Georgia’s ambassador to the Vatican) that the Holy Synod has not rejected the document but rather referred it to a committee of theologians. Personally, I have not been able to find that Facebook entry.
Today, Patriarch Neofit, primate of the Bulgarian Patriarchate, and his delegation met with Patriarch Kirill in Moscow. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/03/08/news129133/ Among the subjects discussed was preparation for the pan-Orthodox Council. The Georgian and Bulgarian Churches are the two Orthodox Local Churches that have for many years refused to participate in the WCC. They are the two churches that might be faced with the most internal resistance to the document on relations with the rest of the Christian world.
The Greek website Amen.gr has reported that Pope Francis is planning to visit Istanbul again in May to speak at the UN-sponsored World Humanitarian Summit on the refugee crisis. http://www.amen.gr/article/nea-episkepsi-tou-papa-fragiskou-sto-oikoumeniko-patriarxeio If this occurs, he will undoubtedly meet again with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. (For more information concerning the Summit, see http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=53195#.Vt9BapwrJWM )
Pope Francis has written a letter to Major Archbishop Sviatoslav Shevchuk, the head of the UGCC . An English translation of the full text may be read at https://zenit.org/articles/popes-letter-to-major-archbishop-shevchuk/ . The letter includes the following paragraph: “In these days, the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church is commemorating the sad events of March 1946. Seventy years ago, the ideological and political context, as well as ideas opposed to the very existence of your Church, led to the organization of a pseudo-Synod at Lviv, causing decades of suffering to the pastors and faithful.” The Major Archbishop and members of the UGCC’s general synod also met with Pope Francis. Vatican Radio has done an interview of Major Archbishop concerning this meeting. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/03/07/archbishop_shevchuk_pope_shares_in_suffering_of_ukrainians/1213612
Finally, the Catholic website www.catholicculture.org has reported that the Vatican has now appointed its members to the Stepinac commission, and the website has provided the following link: http://www.total-croatia-news.com/politics/2771-pope-names-members-of-the-stepinac-commission
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
25 February 2016: Georgian Synod rejects document
Life in the world of inter-Christian relations is never easy. The following is a portion of an English-language report posted today at http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/90950.htm .
Following the session of the Holy Synod of the Georgian Apostolic Orthodox Church held on February 16, 2016, His Holiness Ilia II, Patriarch and Catholicos of Tbilisi and All Georgia announced that the Synod has rejected the document "The relation of the Orthodox Church towards the rest of the Christian world" which was prepared for the upcoming Pan-Orthodox Council to be held in Crete in June 2016.
The Georgian Church has also complained about other documents….
“The Georgian Orthodox Church rejects the document on ecumenism drafted for the Great Council. Our Church is that which has saved our country and our people. In the future our Church will stand as a guard for Orthodoxy."
The Greek Orthodox website Romfea.gr has also posted the same news concerning the decision of the Holy Synod of the Georgian Church. http://www.romfea.gr/patriarxeia-ts/patriarxeio-georgias/6623-i-ekklisia-tis-georgias-aporriptei-keimeno-tis-e-prosunodikis-diaskepsis-
Earlier, Metropolitan Athanasios of Limassol (Church of Cyprus) had written a letter against the same document. http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/90619.htm However, Metropolitan Athanasios appears to be a minority voice in the Church of Cyprus. When Pope Benedict visited Cyprus in 2010, Athanasios announced that he would boycott the Orthodox Church’s reception for Benedict. Athanasios stated that Benedict is a "heretic" and "not even a bishop." On an earlier occasion, he had referred to the dialogue between Orthodox and other faiths as "satanic." Prior to Benedict’s visit, Archbishop Chrysostomos II, the primate of the Church of Cyprus, strongly criticized Athanasios, and a majority of the Holy Synod approved the Pope’s visit and met with him.
However, unlike the criticism by Athanasios, the rejection of the document by the Holy Synod of one of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox Churches is a much more serious matter. A very interesting legal question is presented as to whether the Church of Georgia, after agreeing to the document on relations to the rest of the Christian world in the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conferences and the Meetings of the Primates (Synaxis), can now change its mind and reject the document. Under Article 8 (2) of the approved procedures, “there can be no introduction of texts or new issues which were not unanimously approved by the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conferences and Meetings of the Primates, except the Message of the Council.” Furthermore, during the Council, these texts can only be amended by unanimous vote. See Article 11 (2). Patriarch Ilia was present at the Synaxis at Chambesy where the document was officially approved for referral to the pan-Orthodox Council and presumably did not voice an objection. My guess is that the Holy Synod of Georgia felt the pressure of those in Georgia strongly opposed to ecumenism. Can Georgia simply vote against the document at the Council so that a required consensus does not exist?
On February 21, Patriarch Kirill gave an interesting press conference in San Paulo, Brazil. You can watch a video of the entire conference at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-NZnIXcuoGw . The entire Russian transcript can be read at https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/02/22/news128750/ . In response to one question, Patriarch Kirill stated: "No one was talking me out of it [from meeting with the Pope] because no one knew. Five people knew about this meeting - I am not going to tell their name. Why was that? Because it is impossible to prepare such a meeting openly - too many opponents. And not even those good and dear Orthodox people who think there is some danger in the meeting itself --there are powerful forces that did not really want it. Therefore, it was necessary to prepare it calmly and quietly, which we did."
In my opinion, those “powerful forces” – namely very conservative Orthodox who would be opposed to the meeting between the Patriarch and the Pope – are probably the same forces at work in Georgia. The actions of the Holy Synod in Georgia now probably gives them some encouragement in their fight against the “heresy of ecumenism” and the document on relations with the rest of the Christian world. I think that it is unrealistic to expect them to give up the fight easily.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
18 February 2016: More on meeting & declaration
Although the holding of the meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill was in itself an extremely important milestone on the road to Christian unity, the personal relationship that has now been established in the meeting between the two men is equally important. Pope Francis during the flight from Havana to Mexico City told journalists that he wanted to talk to them about his feelings with respect to the meeting. With respect to the Patriarch, he said: “With Patriarch Kirill, it was a conversation between brothers. We spoke about clear points that concern both of us. Frankly, I felt in the presence of a brother, and he also told me the same thing. Two bishops speaking first about the situations in their Churches and secondly the situations around the world, the wars… the wars which now threaten not only to be piecemeal but affect all; and the situation of Orthodoxy and the next pan-Orthodox synod. But I tell you, really, I felt an inner joy that came straight from the Lord. He spoke freely and I spoke freely. He felt the joy.” http://w2.vatican.va/content/francesco/it/speeches/2016/february/documents/papa-francesco_20160212_cuba-messico-saluto-giornalisti.html On the return flight from Mexico to Rome, Pope Francis added: Then, Patriarch Kirill, my brother. We kissed each other, embraced, and then we had a two-hour conversation. We spoke as brothers, sincerely and no one knows what was spoken about. http://www.lastampa.it/2016/02/18/vaticaninsider/eng/inquiries-and-interviews/popes-message-to-trump-on-immigrants-a-person-who-thinks-only-about-building-walls-is-not-christian-1lP8a94zrLPtelZTbG45lO/pagina.html
On Sunday, after the Liturgy at the Russian Orthodox church of the Kazan Icon of the Mother of God in Havana, Patriarch Kirill spoke about his impressions of the meeting. Among his remarks was the following: “I had a meeting, brotherly, open and full of love, with the Bishop of Rome, Pope Francis. For all still existing theological differences between the Orthodox Christians in the East and Catholic Christians in the West, we are well aware today of our shared responsibility for what is going on with people.” https://mospat.ru/en/2016/02/14/news128345/ A video of the Patriarch’s entire remarks can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HcXUQ9W8Hng . Cardinals Koch and Ortega can also be seen in the video.
There have been a great many commentaries both in the East and the West concerning the common declaration. One of the prime purposes of the meeting was to bring the world’s attention to the plight of the Christians in the Middle East. Sadly, many of the commentators have focused instead on the parts relating to Ukraine and the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church and have made only brief reference to the other extremely important parts of the common declaration. With respect to Ukraine, it must be remembered that the common declaration only reflects, by its very nature, those views on Ukraine on which the Pope and the Patriarch are in agreement. Both the Pope and the Patriarch may each have additional views with respect to Ukraine which are not in agreement and which are therefore not “common.” To find a common ground, the declaration avoided the very difficult political and military issues between Ukraine and Russia. As Pope Francis stated on the flight from Cuba to Mexico, it “is not a political statement, not a sociological statement” but “a pastoral statement.”
Major Archbishop Sviatoslav, the head of the UGCC, has given a long interview concerning the common declaration. http://news.ugcc.ua/en/interview/two_parallel_worlds__an_interview_with_his_beatitude_sviatoslav_75970.html (English) Although it is understandable that Sviatoslav was disappointed, it is simply unrealistic to expect that the common document would seek to address or made judgments in regard to the political disputes between Ukraine and Russia. Sviatoslav’s statement in my opinion is too judgmental both with respect to Patriarch Kirill and Cardinal Koch. Sviatoslav states that in the meeting, Pope Francis “sought out the presence of the Holy Spirit and received His support,” but Sviatoslav sensed that for the Patriarch, the meeting was “not about any Spirit….” In direct contradiction to the words of Pope Francis made two days earlier on the flight to Mexico that the declaration was not intended to be a political or sociological statement, Sviatoslav states that the common declaration was intended to be “essentially socio-political.” Because the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity does not have an expertise “in matters of international politics,” Sviatoslav states that “it is hard to imagine a weaker team than the one that drafted this text.”
Yesterday, RIA Novesti has posted a long interview of Metropolitan Hilarion. http://ria.ru/religion/20160217/1375977438.html (Russian) The Metropolitan not only comments on Sviatoslav’s statement, but also seems to go out of his way to attack Greek Catholics generally. For example, he states that the “Unia was designed to convert Orthodox to Catholicism in a fraudulent way.” With respect to Sviatoslav, Hilarion states in part: “Notice how he insultingly speaks of the Pope. Frankly, I was shocked when I read it.” Later in the interview, Hilarion refers to Sviatoslav’s statements as being “obscene [непристойные].” Quite honestly, I found Sviatoslav’s statements neither insulting to the Pope or obscene. [You can read it for yourself and make your own judgement.] Pope Francis reacted to the statement by Sviatoslav in a far less emotional fashion than Hilarion. I have pasted at the bottom of this report the remarks made by Pope Francis to journalists concerning the statement by Sviatoslav. (For the original Italian, see
Metropolitan Hilarion has also given an extensive interview to Interfax. http://www.interfax-religion.ru/?act=interview&div=430 In the latter interview, he refers to bringing Catholic relics to Russia for veneration and vice versa. The first of such visits of relics may occur this year. Patriarch Kirill also gave a long interview to Russia Today TV. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/02/17/news128539/ He stated that no future meetings were discussed at the Havana meeting. However, “since the first meeting took place, there may be a second and third.”
The meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis, announced only a week in advance, was a big surprise, but yesterday there was a little surprise. Patriarch Kirill made an unannounced visit to Antarctica!! In an Orthodox church at the Russian Bellingshausen station on an island at the tip of the Palmer Peninsula, he conducted a moleben service for the 64 Russian polar explorers who have died over the years in Antarctica. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/02/18/news128605/ I highly recommend that you view the following humorous 2-minute video of the Patriarch on an expedition to see the penguins! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bs-suCbRgf8 You’ll enjoy it!
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
The meeting with the Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill and the signing of the joint declaration sparked a reaction among Ukraine’s Greek Catholics: they said they feel betrayed and refer to it as a political document that supports Russian politics. Do you think you will go to Moscow or Crete for the pan-Orthodox synod?
“I will be present, spiritually, in Crete with a message. I would like to go greet them but I must respect the synod. Behind the Catholic observers who will be present, I will be praying with my best wishes that the Orthodox will move forward because they are brothers and their bishops are bishops like us. Then, Patriarch Kirill, my brother. We kissed each other, embraced, and then we had a two-hour conversation. We spoke as brothers, sincerely and no one knows what was spoke about. About the statement that came from the Ukrainians: when I read it, I was a little bit worried because it came from the Major Archbishop of Kyiv- Halych, Sviatoslav Schevchuk. He said that the Ukrainian people, felt deeply disappointed and betrayed. I know Sviatoslav very well. In Buenos Aires, we worked together for 4 years. When he was elected major archbishop at the age of 42, he came to greet me and gave me an icon of Our Lady of Tenderness. And he told me: ‘This has accompanied me my entire life. I want to leave it with you, who accompanied me over the last four years. It’s one of the few things I brought with me from Buenos Aires and I keep it on my desk in Rome. He is a man whom I respect and there is a familiarity between us. So, for this it seemed strange to me and I remembered something I said here to you: to understand a piece of news, a statement, you need to seek the hermeneutic of everything.” Now Schevchuk’s statement is in the final paragraph of a long interview. He declares himself to be a son of the Church and in communion with the bishop of Rome and the Church. He speaks of the Pope and his closeness with the Pope. In terms of the dogmatic part, there’s no difficulty there. He’s orthodox, in the common sense of the word, that is Catholic doctrine And then, everyone has the right to express his own opinions, they are his personal views. Then, everything he said was about the document, not the meeting with Kirill. The document is open to debate and it is also worth adding that Ukraine is currently going through a war, it is going through a moment of suffering. I have expressed my closeness to the Ukrainian people on so many occasions. It is understandable that a people in this kind of situation should feel this, the document is open to debate with regard to the Ukrainian question, but in that part of the declaration is asking for the war to stop, for an agreement to be reached. I personally expressed the hope that the Minsk accords will move forward and that they will not rub out with their elbows what they wrote with their hands. I received both presidents, so when Schevchuk says he’s heard this from his people, I understand it. There’s no need to be frightened by that phrase. A piece of news must be interpreted with the hermeneutic of everything and not just a part.”
Has Patriarch Kirill invited you to Moscow?
“Has Patriarch Kirill invited me? I prefer to stick to what we said in public. A private meeting is private but I can tell you that I came away happy and so did he.”
13 February 2016: Common declaration and meeting
The historic meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis has now ended. The first four minutes of the private meeting can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qcz4QlCbg4I . Some photos during the meeting can be viewed at https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/02/12/news128173/ . You may watch a video of the brief public portion following the private meeting of over two hours at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3jNBiZq2sg . In my opinion, this last part of the meeting was marked by its simplicity, its brevity, and its sincerity. The setting for the final public appearance was very Spartan. The two men sat a table with a large Kazan icon of the Mother of God on their right and a Cuban flag on their left. Members of their respective delegations stood on either side. The Patriarch and the Pope signed the common declaration, made very short comments to the media, and met and gave gifts to the members of the delegations. The two then went back into their private room, so that no one saw their farewell to each other. I believe that both sides went to considerable lengths not to make the meeting “a public show.” I was certainly left with the conviction, after watching and listening to the two men, that both felt that their meeting was very significant and meaningful.
The Patriarch in his brief remarks said that it had been “an open discussion” and a “very good conversation.” The Pope said that “we spoke as brothers” and that they discussed a series of initiatives which are viable and can be realized. At the end, the Pope referred to the protection of the Mother of God. Although not shown in the videos, Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio reported that the Pope had given the Patriarch a chalice and a particle of the relics of St. Cyril, after whom the Patriarch took his name.
Cardinal Koch and Father Hyacinthe Destivelle OP of the Pontifical Council for Christian Unity did not join the Pope on his flight to Mexico City, but will rather stay in Havana for the duration of Patriarch Kirill’s visit there.
You may access the full text of the common declaration in the following languages – Italian, Russian, French, English, German, Spanish, and Portuguese – at http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/en/bollettino/pubblico/2016/02/12/0111/00258.html#de . Because of my hope for improved relations between Orthodox and Catholics, I found particularly moving the quotation from the declaration that I have pasted below.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
- Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.
We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another's foundation” (Rm15:20).
- It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.
- We deplore the hostility in Ukraine that has already caused many victims, inflicted innumerable wounds on peaceful inhabitants and thrown society into a deep economic and humanitarian crisis. We invite all the parts involved in the conflict to prudence, to social solidarity and to action aimed at constructing peace. We invite our Churches in Ukraine to work towards social harmony, to refrain from taking part in the confrontation, and to not support any further development of the conflict.
- It is our hope that the schism between the Orthodox faithful in Ukraine may be overcome through existing canonical norms, that all the Orthodox Christians of Ukraine may live in peace and harmony, and that the Catholic communities in the country may contribute to this, in such a way that our Christian brotherhood may become increasingly evident.
- In the contemporary world, which is both multiform yet united by a shared destiny, Catholics and Orthodox are called to work together fraternally in proclaiming the Good News of salvation, to testify together to the moral dignity and authentic freedom of the person, “so that the world may believe” (Jn17:21). This world, in which the spiritual pillars of human existence are progressively disappearing, awaits from us a compelling Christian witness in all spheres of personal and social life. Much of the future of humanity will depend on our capacity to give shared witness to the Spirit of truth in these difficult times.
- Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.
11 February 2016: Watching the Havana meeting & other news
If you want to watch the live stream of Friday’s meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis in Havana, the following are the Vatican television service links and times:
Initial meeting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzCNmACC6OY Moscow – 9:55 pm; Rome – 7:55 pm; New York – 1:55 pm
The meeting following the private meeting: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3jNBiZq2sg Moscow – 12:15 am (Sat.); Rome – 10:15 pm; New York – 4:15 pm
If you miss the live stream, you should be able later to see the video on demand at these same websites.
Patriarch Kirill has left for Cuba. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/02/11/news128090/ Interestingly, Metropolitan Anthony of Borispol, chancellor of the UOC-MP, is a member of the Patriarch’s entourage. A short video of the departure can be seen at http://ria.ru/tv_society/20160211/1373047861.html . A short but nice video, just posted, of the beautiful Kazan ROC church in Havana and its pastor and parishioners can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4cMgd0urhlw The Cuban press is giving extensive coverage of the visit of Patriarch Kirill and the meeting with the Pope. http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=4599671&Itemid=1 In one hour, you will be able to see the arrival of Patriarch Kirill in Cuba via a live stream at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=24aL0i-4ERY .
Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio has done an interesting English-language interview of Cardinal Kurt Koch concerning the meeting. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/02/10/card_koch_on_popes_meeting_with_russian_orthodox_patriarch/1207432 Because of the opposition of some to the meeting, Cardinal Koch states that he believes that the decision of the Patriarch is “very courageous.” The Cardinal also stated that it is “not possible to avoid” the subject of Ukraine in the private meeting, but the meeting “can be an opportunity to deepen this not easy question.”
Although there has been some opposition to the meeting posted on the Internet, I have not seen any statements by persons in responsible positions in the Russian Orthodox Church or other Orthodox Churches speaking publically against it. A spokesperson for the Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), which is conservative, has stated: “We pray to the Almighty God that the forthcoming meeting will help foster mutual understanding on many questions which trouble the Christian world and will enable the establishment of peaceful cooperation with other Christian confessions which witness the One Christ God, our Savior.” http://www.pravoslavie.ru/english/90543.htm The most popular Russian Orthodox website, Pravoslavie.ru, has posted two interviews explaining the reasons for the meeting. http://www.pravoslavie.ru/90518.html The Serbian Patriarchate, which will be (after tomorrow) the only Local Orthodox Church whose primate has not met a pope, has issued a very positive statement concerning the Havana meeting. http://www.spc.rs/sr/povodom_susreta_pape_franje_patrijarha_kirila
The website Vatican Insider reports that the Vatican is working on a possible trip by Pope Francis to Armenia in September. The report also states that the trip may include stopovers in Georgia and Azerbaijan. http://www.lastampa.it/2016/02/08/vaticaninsider/eng/world-news/popes-potential-visit-to-armenia-could-take-place-in-september-BCFiTI8v5tR73ZfvTSNEYN/pagina.html During the return flight from Africa last November, Pope Francis told reporters: “Last year I promised the three [Armenian] patriarchs I would go. The promise remains.” http://www.lastampa.it/2015/11/30/vaticaninsider/eng/the-vatican/francis-regarding-the-climate-its-either-now-or-never-we-are-on-the-verge-of-suicide-PA0Zz8zhT9o1Y8vnTLDzRP/pagina.html
The Information and Education Department of the UOC-MP has interviewed Metropolitan Onufry concerning the remarks made by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at Chambesy. The following is the full text of the interview. http://news.church.ua/2016/02/06/ukrainskaya-cerkov-na-povestke-dnya-vsepravoslavnogo-dialoga/?lang=ru (Russian translation). It appears that the interview was motivated, at least in part, by the article by Archdeacon John Chryssavgis (Ecumenical Patriarchate) in the magazine First Things.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
7 February 2016: The heresy of ecumenism
Cindy Wooden of Catholic News Service has written an interesting article relating to next week’s meeting of Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill. http://www.catholicnews.com/services/englishnews/2016/pope-russian-orthodox-patriarch-to-meet-vatican-announces.cfm In the article, she quotes Father Lombardi, the Vatican’s spokesperson, as saying that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew "naturally, has been informed" of plans for the meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill and expressed "his joy for this step forward." It is my understanding that Father Hyacinthe Destivelle OP of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity made a special trip to Istanbul several days before the announcement to brief the Ecumenical Patriarch concerning the meeting. From the Ecumenical Patriarch’s reaction, it is apparent to me, at least, that he views this historic event not as a giving of worldwide attention to a “competitor” for leadership in the Orthodox world, but rather, as it should be, a confirmation of the correctness of the Orthodox dialogue of charity with the papacy, which has been so actively pursued by His All-Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew and which was initiated years ago by Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras in his meeting with Pope Paul VI.
In recent decades, the primates of 12 of the 14 universally-recognized autocephalous Orthodox churches have meet with a Pope of Rome. These churches and the years of the initial meeting (as best as I can determine) are as follows: Ecumenical Patriarchate (1964); Patriarchate of Jerusalem (1964); Patriarchate of Antioch (1983); Church of Poland (1991); Church of Albania (1993); Romanian Patriarchate (1999); Georgian Patriarchate (1999); Church of Greece (2001); Bulgarian Patriarchate (2002); Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia (2009); Church of Cyprus (2010); Patriarchate of Alexandria (2013). After the meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill of the Moscow Patriarchate next week, the Serbian Patriarchate will be the only autocephalous Orthodox church whose primate has not met with a Pope of Rome in recent decades. As I recently reported, there have been some very positive recent developments between the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Vatican, so that a meeting in the future is a definite possibility.
In the last eleven days, there has been a breathtaking chain of events that has inflicted great damage on the position taken by certain conservative Orthodox that the Orthodox – Catholic dialogue constitutes the great “heresy of ecumenism.” These conservatives have been very vocal, and I believe some Orthodox hierarchs have been cautious with respect to relations with Catholics because they did not wish to be attacked by these conservative Orthodox as deviating from the true Orthodox faith. With respect to these opponents of ecumenism, I am reminded of an amusing story told by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware) concerning the first plenary meeting of the Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue between the Orthodox and Catholic Churches, held at the Monastery of St. John at Patmos in 1980. While the Catholic and Orthodox delegates were in the monastery church at the beginning of the plenary, some monks at the monastery lowered the flag above the monastery and raised instead a black flag with the words “Orthodoxy or death!” Monks at such very holy places as Mt. Athos also have generally been against the ecumenical dialogue. Greece has some very popular and vocal enemies of ecumenism such as Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus. In Russia, “ecumenism” is considered a bad word in many church circles. This is not to say that anti-ecumenism is an exclusively Orthodox phenomenon. There are also anti-ecumenists in the Catholic Church.
Three events in the last eleven days have greatly strengthen the position of Orthodox who are in favor of the ecumenical dialogue. First, at the synaxis of primates of the Orthodox churches, concluded on January 27, all of the 14 Orthodox churches approved the draft document, Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/01/28/news127362/ (English translation of the full text) The document is a very strong endorsement of Orthodox participation in the ecumenical movement, including the bilateral theological dialogue. Second, on February 3, the Moscow Patriarchate’s Council of Bishops, which encompasses all of the 293 dioceses of the Russian Orthodox Church, approved of Patriarch Kirill’s actions at the synaxis and found that the draft documents “do not violate the purity of the Orthodox faith and do not depart from the canonical tradition of the Church.” Third, the meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill, who is the leader of the largest and one of the most conservative Local Orthodox Churches, was announced on February 5. In a sense, the occurrence of these three events greatly diminish the ability of certain conservative Orthodox to argue persuasively that ecumenism is a heresy.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
5 February 2016 (2): More on Havana meeting
Father Hyacinthe Destivelle O.P. of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity gave a very interesting interview today to Philippa Hitchen of the English-language service of Vatican Radio. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/02/05/pope,_patriarch_joint_statement_on_common_christian_witness/1206367 Father Hyacinthe is responsible for the Vatican’s relations with the Slavic Orthodox Churches and was probably the person most involved at the Vatican for working out certain details of the Havana meeting between Pope Francis and Patriarch Kirill. Father Hyacinthe speaks fluent Russian and was the pastor of the Catholic Basilica of St. Catherine of Alexandria in St. Petersburg, Russia, immediately prior to his assignment to the Vatican in 2013. Both Cardinal Koch and Father Hyacinthe will be in Havana for the meeting.
According to Father Hyacinthe, the personal conversation between the Pope and the Patriarch “will be a long encounter – almost two hours.” After the encounter, there will be an exchange of gifts between the Patriarch and the Pope. Then there will the signing of a joint declaration. Father Hyacinthe states that “it is a long declaration.” He adds: “it will be a declaration of different aspects of collaboration, of testimony that the Russian Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church can give to our world today. Probably important aspects will be the question of the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, the question of secularization, the question of the protection of life from its beginning to its natural end, the question of family, marriage, and youth, and other important things to give a common testimony to the world today. But it will not be a theological assessment. The role of this meeting is in the frame of the dialogue of charity.” Father Hyacinthe, who is from France, also gave an interview to the French-language service of Vatican Radio. http://fr.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/02/05/des_d%C3%A9cennies_deffort_pour_le_rapprochement_entre_moscou_et_rome/1206359 This common declaration to the world will probably cover a number of the points that will be also made by the 14 autocephalous Orthodox Churches in their message to the world at the pan-Orthodox Council in June.
A detailed summary of Metropolitan Hilarion’s remarks to the press after the announcement of the Havana meeting have now been posted in English. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/02/05/news127872/ In his remarks, Metropolitan Hilarion stressed that in view of the persecution Christians, “it is necessary to put aside internal disagreements and unite efforts for saving Christianity in the regions where it is subjected to the most severe persecution.”
The attention given by the world to the historic Havana meeting will probably equal or exceed the great attention given by the world media to the meetings between the Ecumenical Patriarch and Pope Francis. I believe that Pope Francis was concerned that his very close friendship with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew not be construed as a lack of interest in a good relationship with Patriarch Kirill. The Havana meeting has the practical, and perhaps unintended, advantage to Moscow in that it will show that Moscow is not “playing second fiddle” to Constantinople.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
5 February 2016 (1): Official - Francis & Kirill will meet in Cuba
The following notice was posted by the Moscow Patriarchate’s DECR today (https://mospat.ru/en/2016/02/05/news127862/ ) :
The Holy See and the Patriarchate of Moscow are pleased to announce that, by the grace of God, His Holiness Pope Francis and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia will meet on February 12. Their meeting will take place in Cuba, where the Pope will make a stop on his way to Mexico, and where the Patriarch will be on an official visit. It will include a personal conversation at Havana’s José Martí International Airport, and will conclude with the signing of a joint declaration.
This meeting of the Primates of the Catholic Church and the Russian Orthodox Church, after a long preparation, will be the first in history and will mark an important stage in relations between the two Churches. The Holy See and the Moscow Patriarchate hope that it will also be a sign of hope for all people of good will. They invite all Christians to pray fervently for God to bless this meeting, that it may bear good fruits.
The same joint announcement has been released by the Vatican. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/02/05/pope_francis_to_meet_patriarch_kirill_of_moscow_/1206182
Sandro Magister, the Italian journalist who reports on Vatican developments, must be smiling. On January 26, he posted an article entitled: Francis and Kirill Together, Under Tropical Skies. http://chiesa.espresso.repubblica.it/articolo/1351215?eng=y In that article, Magister reported:
In fact, just when the pope is in Mexico, Kirill will be in Cuba, where he was invited personally by Raúl Castro in May of last year, during the Cuban president’s visit to Moscow. On that occasion, Raúl Castro made a stop in Rome on his way back from Moscow and met with Francis. To speak with him about the pope’s visit to Cuba, scheduled for September of that year. But it is likely that he also wanted to talk with him about his conversations with Patriarch Kirill and with Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Magister also stated: The secrecy was dictated by the intention of avoiding any reaction from forces in either camp that would be opposed to the meeting, with the risk of ruining it. Consistent with the need for secrecy, the DECR had reacted to Magister’s article with the statement that “[t]he assumptions about a possible meeting between Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis in a Latin American country this February are baseless.” http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=12692
Finally, in my report on February 3, I referred to Patriarch Kirill’s address to the Council of Bishop and placed in quotation marks certain remarks made by Patriarch Kirill with respect to the statements made by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the recent synaxis. It has now been brought to my attention that my use of the quotations marks was somewhat ambiguous – they could be construed as quoting the exact words of the Ecumenical Patriarch. I wish to clarify that I was quoting the exact words of Patriarch Kirill in describing statements that he states were made by the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Let us hope and pray that the Havana meeting, a week from today, will bring much fruit and will further improve Catholic – Russian Orthodox relations!
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
4 February 2016: Resolutions and press conference
The resolutions of the Council of Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate (Feb. 2-3) have now been posted. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/02/03/news127813/ In paragraph 1, the bishops approve the positions taken by Patriarch Kirill at the synaxis in Chambesy as well as the positions taken by the delegations of the Moscow Patriarchate at all of the earlier pre-Council meetings. In paragraph 3, “[t]he members of the Council of Bishops testify that in its current form, the draft documents of the Holy and Great Council do not violate the purity of the Orthodox faith and do not depart from the canonical tradition of the Church.” The latter conclusion by the bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate, coming only a few days after the texts of the draft documents have been made public, will probably prevent any effective movement by some clergy or faithful to challenge the draft documents. In paragraph 6, the Council of Bishops states that the participation by delegations from all of the autocephalous churches is “a necessary condition” to the holding of the pan-Orthodox Council. In this regard, the Council of Bishops stresses the need to resolve before the pan-Orthodox Council “the problems arising in relations between the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem.”
In paragraph 20, the Council of Bishops addresses the use of the social media by clergy. It states that it is important for the clergy to support and explain the position of the Church on matters of public concern, while avoiding statements that could bring confusion among the faithful and influence the formation of inadequate perceptions of this position in secular society. “Public statements by clerics in the information space, not corresponding to the facts and not proven, should, in the case of complaints, be addressed within the existing church-legal institutions and evaluated in accordance with the norms of canon law.” I assume that one of the purposes of this resolution is to address complaints against such church critics as Father Vsevolod Chaplin.
Last evening a press conference was held in Moscow relating the Council of Bishops. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/02/04/news127851/ Metropolitan Hilarion answered the questions relating to the pan-Orthodox Council. I found the following the most interesting: (1) Metropolitan Hilarion confirmed that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had given assurances, both in a meeting with Patriarch Kirill and in a meeting of the primates, that the Ecumenical Patriarchate will not take any steps during the pan-Orthodox Council or afterwards to provide autocephalous status to the schematics in Ukraine or any form of legitimization of the schism. (2) The consensus rule does not mean a unanimous vote by all of the Churches present at the pan-Orthodox Council but requires the approval of all of the 14 autocephalous Churches. Thus, non-participation by a church [such as Antioch] for any reason would mean that the meeting would not be a pan-Orthodox Council, but at best, an inter-Orthodox synod. (3) The Patriarchate of Georgia refused to sign the draft document on marriage because it provides [at Section 2, paragraph 5a] that mixed marriages [e.g. between an Orthodox and a Catholic] may be “blessed” if there is an agreement that the children will be raised in the Orthodox faith. (4) The reason that the Patriarchate of Antioch did not sign the draft document on marriage and the draft document on procedural rules was its dispute with Jerusalem with respect to jurisdiction over Qatar. (5) With respect to the pan-Orthodox Council, if even one Church opposes a decision, the decision does not pass. If at least one of the Churches does not agree with a particular opinion, this opinion is not accepted.
A short article by Archdeacon John Chryssavgis (Ecumenical Patriarchate) relating to the synaxis in Chambesy has been posted on the website of the magazine First Things. http://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2016/02/on-the-great-council-of-the-orthodox-church In the article, Archdeacon John states: “However, there was neither any apology from Constantinople for any of its activity in Ukraine, nor any compromise by Constantinople to its honorable desire to end church politics in Ukraine, nor again any promise by Constantinople about diminishing its relationship with the Orthodox faithful of Ukraine. Indeed, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew underscored his historical and canonical right to respond to appeals or concerns from Orthodox faithful in Ukraine as the ‘daughter church’ of Constantinople.” In my opinion, this statement is not inconsistent with Moscow’s statement that the Ecumenical Patriarch gave assurances that he would not unilaterally grant autocephalous status to a church in Ukraine.
Father Hyacinthe Destivelle OP, who is responsible for the Slavic Orthodox Churches at the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, has published an article in L’Osservatore Romano relating to recent developments in relationship with these churches. In the article, he gives special emphasis on positive developments with the Serbian Orthodox Church. He states that it is hoped that the joint working group to study relations between Croats and Slavs during World War II (including the role of Cardinal Stepinac) will begin its work this year. The article has been translated into Russian at http://ru.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/01/26/%D0%BE%D1%82%D0%BD%D0%BE%D1%88%D0%B5%D0%BD%D0%B8%D1%8F_%D1%81%D0%BE_%D1%81%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B2%D1%8F%D0%BD%D1%81%D0%BA%D0%B8%D0%BC%D0%B8_%D0%BF%D1%80%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%BE%D1%81%D0%BB%D0%B0%D0%B2%D0%BD%D1%8B%D0%BC%D0%B8_%D1%86%D0%B5%D1%80%D0%BA%D0%B2%D0%B0%D0%BC%D0%B8/1203805
I apologize for the number of reports that I have sent you in the last few weeks. There have been so many developments during this period. As you know, when things slow down, there may be several weeks between reports.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
3 February 2016: Council in Moscow ended today
The two-day Council of Bishops of the Moscow Patriarchate ended in Moscow a few hours ago. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4367795.html Although Patriarch Kirill gave a fairly extensive report on the results of the synaxis at Chambesy, I have found no indication that the agenda included a general discussion by the attending bishops of the texts of the draft documents for the pan-Orthodox Council or that there was a vote by the bishops on the specific documents. However, the bishops did approve a letter to the faithful which requested their prayers for the pan-Orthodox Council. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4367711.html
The full text of Patriarch Kirill’s address in Russian to the Council of Bishops can be read at http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4366063.html A video can be seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7APX_mP9pI . The DECR has posted a number of English-language articles relating to various parts of the Patriarch’s address. I found the following comments by Patriarch Kirill concerning the pan-Orthodox Council the most interesting: (1) The pan-Orthodox Council will not be an Ecumenical Council as “it is not called to make decisions on doctrinal issues” and not “called either to introduce any innovation in the liturgical life of the Church and her canonical order.” https://mospat.ru/en/2016/02/02/news127677/ (2) The fate of the document on marriage, which the Patriarchates of Antioch and Georgia refused to sign, “will be determined in the course of inter-Orthodox consultations before the Council.” https://mospat.ru/en/2016/02/02/news127688/ (3) During the synaxis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew promised that no attempts would be made, either during or after the Pan-Orthodox Council, “to legalize the schism in Ukraine or to grant autocephaly on a unilateral basis.” Bartholomew also stated at the synaxis that “[w]e all recognize that Metropolitan Onufry is the only canonical head of Orthodoxy in Ukraine.” https://mospat.ru/en/2016/02/02/news127695/ (4) Patriarch Kirill said nothing about the problem presented by the Patriarchate of Antioch.
English translations of several more of the draft pan-Orthodox Council documents have now been posted by the DECR. http://www.patriarchia.ru/db/text/4366063.html As a Catholic, I was especially interested in the document on relations with the rest of the Christian world. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/01/28/news127362/ The document affirms that the Orthodox Church “has always promoted dialogue with those separated from her, both far and near, playing a leading role in seeking ways and means to restore the unity of believers in Christ, participating in the ecumenical movement since its inception, and contributing to its formation and further development.” There are certain conservative Orthodox who are very vocal in their belief that ecumenism is a great “heresy.” In a statement presumably aimed at these individuals, the document states: “The Orthodox Church believes that any attempts to shatter Church unity, undertaken by individuals or groups under the pretense of preserving or defending true Orthodoxy, must be condemned.”
On January 29, prior to the convening of the Council in Moscow, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate) held its own Council of Bishops – the first since August 13, 2014. The Council issued an appeal, signed by Metropolitan Onufry, to the faithful which included a reference to the forthcoming pan-Orthodox Council. http://news.church.ua/2016/01/29/zvernennya-soboru-jepiskopiv-upc-do-kliru-chernectva-ta-miryan-ukrajinskoji-pravoslavnoji-cerkvi/ The appeal stated in part: “We urge you all - dear fathers, brothers and sisters - to raise special prayers for the successful convening of this important pan-Orthodox forum.” It is clear that Metropolitan Onufry, who before the synaxis believed that it might be better not to hold any pan-Orthodox Council, has been convinced by his attendance at the synaxis that the Council is in fact a good idea. He is probably especially pleased by the strong support given by the synaxis to the UOC-MP. This support at the synaxis probably destroys any realistic hope that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Kyiv Patriarchate) might have of obtaining autocephalous status over the objections of the Moscow Patriarchate.
It has been brought to my attention that a talk at St. Vladimir’s Seminary last Sunday by Archdeacon John Chryssavgis (Ecumenical Patriarchate) has just been posted. http://www.ancientfaith.com/podcasts/svsvoices/the_33rd_annual_schmemann_lecture Archdeacon John, who had just returned from Chambesy, makes in his talk many observations concerning the synaxis and the pan-Orthodox Council. His remarks can be heard from :22 to 1:23. His discussion of individual documents begins at :41.
At a meeting of the Standing Synod of the Church of Greece today, Archbishop Ieronymos stated that his absence from the synaxis at Chambesy was not due to “personal reasons,” as stated by the official communique, but “came from actions that undermine the Church and its validity.” http://www.amen.gr/article/anakoinothen-tis-protis-synedrias-tis-dis Presumably, he is referring to the actions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in inviting the metropolitans of the “New Lands” of Greece to attend the synaxis of the hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate ( August – September 2015) without previously notifying Archbishop Ieronymos.
Lastly, the DECR has posted its critique of a document adopted by the UGCC on the subject of “The Ecumenical Concept of the UGCC.” https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/01/28/news127356/ (Russian); https://mospat.ru/fr/2016/01/28/news127356/ (French) The UGCC document itself can be read at http://news.ugcc.ua/documents/kontsepts%D1%96ya_ekumen%D1%96chnoi_pozits%D1%96i_ukrainskoi_grekokatolitskoi_tserkvi_75625.html
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
29 January 2016 (2): English texts
The Moscow Patriarchate has now posted the English version of two of the documents for the pan-Orthodox Council. They are the “Organization and Working Procedure” (i.e. Rules) for the Council (https://mospat.ru/en/2016/01/28/news127391/ ) and “Autonomy and the Means of Proclaiming It” (https://mospat.ru/en/2016/01/28/news127358/) . I assume that the English version of other documents will be posted shortly.
The posting confirms that the Rules have not been approved by the Patriarchate of Antioch. The Rules answer many important questions.
Who can attend?
The Delegates: The members of the Council shall be the hierarchs (i.e. bishops) appointed by each of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches (14 in number). It appears clear from the Rules that the Church must be “universally recognized” as autocephalous. Thus, a church, recognized as autocephalous by certain Local Orthodox Churches but not others, would not be included. As decided by the primates at their meeting in March 2014, each Church will be entitled to appoint up to 24 bishops plus the primate. The smaller Orthodox Churches which do not have that number of bishops will not be prejudiced because each Church will have only one vote. If there is a disagreement within the delegation of one Church, the resolution of that disagreement is an internal affair of that Church. Individual delegates may register their disagreement which will be noted in the minutes of the Council.
Special Consultants: Each Church may have a maximum of six special consultants who may attend the plenary sessions but who may not speak or vote at the plenary. However, they do have the right to speak at meetings of the Council Secretariat or Commissions. The consultants may be “clergy, monks or lay people.” Thus it appears that women may be consultants, but religious sisters, perhaps due to a drafting oversight, do not seem to fall into any of the three categories.
Assistants: Each Church may have a maximum of three assistants. There appears to be no restriction as to whom these persons may be.
Others: Aside from the three categories above, all plenary sessions “will be closed.” However, observers from other Christian churches or confessions as well as inter-Christian organizations shall be present at the opening and closing session without the right to vote or speak. Presumably, attendance as an observer will be by invitation only.
What can be discussed and who can speak?
Subjects to be discussed: There can be no introduction of texts or new issues which were not unanimously approved at the Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conferences or the meeting of the primates. “[A]ny off-topic intervention shall be forbidden” except for a procedural of personal matter. Although speaking from the floor is “free,” one must first ask for and receive permission from the Chairman of the Council (the Ecumenical Patriarch). One must also give advanced written notice to the appropriate member of the Secretariat. “[A]ll the controversial dialogues and all the personal disputes between members of the Council shall be forbidden since such are not only alien but also contrary to the tasks of the Council.” Interventions are limited to 10 minutes although primates may have twice this amount of time.
Amendments to documents: One of the questions in my mind has been what will the delegates discuss because all of the documents have previously been approved by consensus prior to the beginning of the Council. The Rules provide that the Council may consider “proposals for amendments, corrections, and additions” to the documents. However, a change in a document can only occur if there is unanimous approval for the change.
The Message of the Council (to the World) : “A draft of it will be prepared by a special pan-Orthodox commission a week before the convocation of the Council and will be subject to approval by the Primates of the Orthodox Churches.”
Goverance of the Council: The Ecumenical Patriarch will exercise the chairmanship of the Council, with the primates of the other Local Orthodox Churches seated on his right and left. His responsibilities are specified in Article 5. A Secretariat is established, composed of one bishop from each of the Local Orthodox Churches, as well as a secretary who will supervised the work of the Secretariat. The responsibilities of the Secretariat are specified in Article 7. The documents approved by the Council “shall have pan-Orthodox authority.” A commission consisting of one delegate from each of the Churches, will be established to inform the media of the progress of the Council on a regular basis.
The Antioch Issue: As far as I can see, the Rules do not specifically deal with a situation where the Patriarchate of Antioch as a whole does not participates in or withdraws at some point during the Council. Article 13 provides that the documents unanimously approved “shall be signed by the initials of all the Primates of the autocephalous Churches….” The Patriarch of Antioch is one of those primates. What if he refuses to sign? If the Antioch – Jerusalem jurisdictional issues remains unresolved, maybe this is one of the issues that the primates will address at their meeting a few days prior to the convocation of the Council.
The following is simply my personal view of the Rules. Obviously, the complete text of the Rules are available so that you can arrive at your own personal interpretation.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
29 January 2016 (1): Documents in French and Greek & Antioch issue
The Moscow Patriarchate has now posted the text of documents of the synaxis in French and Greek in addition to Russian. The texts in French can be read at https://mospat.ru/fr/ . The texts in Greek can be read at https://mospat.ru/gr/ . To the best of my knowledge, an English text has not yet been posted.
The Moscow Patriarchate has also posted in English a summary of the proceedings. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/01/28/news127341/ For me, there were several items of particular interest. For example, the summary states: The delegation of the Church of Antioch has not agreed with the Council’s Rules of Procedure which was signed by all other delegations to the Synaxis. If the rule requiring a consensus of all of the Local Orthodox Churches still applies, what does this refusal mean? Presumably, Antioch wishes a provision that would allow it to withdraw from the Council and thus make it void – in the event its dispute over Qatar is not resolved to its satisfaction. Apparently, Antioch believes that this is the only effective “level” that it has in the dispute, and it believes that it would have no “bargaining power” if this lever is surrendered. In the keynote address at the beginning of the synaxis, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew stated: The second matter emerged during the recent meeting of the Special Committee for preparing the draft of the Council’s procedural By-Laws in Athens. At that meeting, certain delegations persistently sought to include a provision in the By-Laws, according to which if one Church for any reason withdraws from the sessions of the Council, then the Chairman is obliged to secure that Church’s presence, otherwise the Council cannot continue its deliberations (i.e., is dissolved) since there is no consensus. That is our predicament if we regard consensus as applying not only to those present but also to those absent. We wish to state forthrightly that our most holy Church and we personally cannot conceive or accept the realization of a Council that would operate under the Damocleian sword of dissolution should one or more Churches decide to withdraw. It would be preferable for such a Council, operating under the threat of dissolution, not to be held at all. https://www.patriarchate.org/-/keynote-address-by-his-all-holiness-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-to-the-synaxis-of-the-primates-of-the-orthodox-churches-geneva-22-01-2016-?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2F
On a more hopeful note, the Greek website has posted an article containing certain statements by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France with respect to the Antioch dispute. http://www.amen.gr/article/gallias-emmanouil-gia-agia-kai-megali-synodo-tha-einai-i-afthediki-endeiksi-tis-enotitas-ton-orthodokson According to Metropolitan Emmanuel, Archbishop Chrysostomos, the primate of the Church of Cyprus, has played a very positive role in the effort to restore relations between the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem. The Metropolitan stated: “By the Grace of God and with the help of all of us, we will overcome this difficulty so as not to cause a Church to be absent” from the Council. To me, it appears that the other 13 Local Orthodox Churches will make an exception to the consensus rule and will hold the Council even if Antioch refuses to participate because of the Qatar dispute.
The summary by the Moscow Patriarchate also states: The Council’s draft decision on “The Sacrament of Marriage and Impediments to it” was signed by all heads of the delegations of the Local Orthodox Churches, except the Churches of Georgia and Antioch. The head of the Church of Antioch’s delegation expressed his disagreement with the document in the written form. Again, assuming that approval of document will require a complete consensus, what does this refusal mean? From my perspective, it appears that there are some matters that still must be addressed before the Council is actually convened. Presumably, that is one of the reasons that the primates are meeting again a few days before the Council begins.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
28 January 2016: Official communique and text of documents
The official English-language communique of the synaxis (it is also available in Greek, Russian, and French) has just been posted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. http://www.ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=gr&id=2118&tla=en
Certain additional details have been reported by the Romanian Patriarchate. http://basilica.ro/la-lucrarile-sfantului-si-marelui-sinod-vor-participa-exclusiv-delegatiile-bisericilor-ortodoxe-autocefale-111664.html The primates of the Local Orthodox Churches will meet two days before the beginning of the pan-Orthodox Council to ratify certain aspects either on the part of the organizers or with respect to certain documents. The Council will take place in the exclusive presence of the delegations of the 14 Autocephalous Orthodox Churches. However, one representative from each of the following will be invited to be present at the opening and closing of the Council: the Oriental Churches, the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran World Federation, and the World Council of Churches.
The Moscow Patriarchate has now immediately posted in Russian the full text of the documents relating to (1) the Mission of the Orthodox Church; (2) Autonomy; (3) Fasting; (4) Relationship to the Rest of the Christian World; (5) Marriage and its Impediments. I assume that the document on the Orthodox Diaspora will also be posted shortly. https://mospat.ru/ru/
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
27 January 2016: Wonderful news!!
The pan-Orthodox Council will be held June 16-27, 2016 at the Orthodox Academy of Crete, which is located 24 kilometers from the city of Chania in Crete. http://www.amen.gr/article/apo-tis-16-mexri-tis-27-iouniou-stin-kriti-i-agia-kai-megalis-synodos-tis-orthodoksias You can read about the Academy at its excellent English website. http://www.oac.gr/en/ The Pentecost liturgy will be held at the Cathedral of St. Minas at Heraklion on June 19. It is one of the largest cathedrals in Greece. http://www.explorecrete.com/Heraklion/EN08-Heraklion-saint-minas.html
The Romanian Patriarchate has specified the documents that have been approved by the synaxis. http://basilica.ro/sinaxa-primatilor-de-biserici-ortodoxe-se-apropie-de-final-111652.html Most importantly, the synaxis has agreed on the rules governing the Council. The rules contain 16 articles. According to Metropolitan Nifon, these relate to “the definition of the Holy and Great Council, its structure, the powers of the President, and many other practical issues such as the terms of invitations to be made to other Christian Churches and international organizations.” With respect to the approved documents, Metropolitan Nikon specifically referred to: 1) Autonomy and the manner of its declaration; (2) Relations of the Orthodox Church to the rest of the Christian world; (3) The importance of fasting and its observance today; (4) The Orthodox Diaspora; (5) The mission of the Orthodox Church in the contemporary world [to promote Christian ideals of peace, freedom, brotherhood and love among peoples].
Patriarch Kirill spoke to journalist when he left Chambesy today. https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/01/27/news127311/ In his remarks, he indicated that the document on the impediments to marriage has also been approved – apparently now expanded to include also marriage and the family. His Holiness also stated that all of the approved documents will be published in the “near future.” He also stressed that the synaxis strongly supported the position of the Moscow Patriarchate with respect to the schism in Ukraine.
It again appears that the pan-Orthodox Council will not consider: (1) Autocephaly and its manner of proclamation; (2) The Diptychs; and (3) The matter of a common calendar. Presumably, these will be considered at a subsequent pan-Orthodox Council.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
26 January 2016: Synaxis - day four
The Romanian Patriarchate (especially its radio station Trinitas) continues to provide the latest news with respect to the synaxis. Its latest report can be read at http://basilica.ro/chambsy-discuii-privind-impedimentele-la-casatorie-si-misiunea-bisericilor-ortodoxe-in-lume-111615.html . According to this report, the synaxis focused Sunday evening and Monday morning on the two proposed documents relating to impediments to marriage and the mission of the Local Orthodox Churches to promote Christian ideals of peace, freedom, brotherhood and love among peoples.
Today the official English translation of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s opening address has been posted. https://www.patriarchate.org/-/keynote-address-by-his-all-holiness-ecumenical-patriarch-bartholomew-to-the-synaxis-of-the-primates-of-the-orthodox-churches-geneva-22-01-2016-?inheritRedirect=true&redirect=%2F To understand fully the issues faced by the synaxis, this detailed description of the past events and current issues, from the Ecumenical Patriarch’s perspective, is a “must read.”
Where do things now stand with respect to the proposed documents? Consensus was reached on three of the documents at the 5th Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference held last October. They are: (1) About autonomy and the manner of its declaration in the Orthodox Church; (2) Relations of the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world; and (3) The importance of fasting and its observance today.
There appears to be three documents which will not be presented to the Council because the differences are too great to be resolved this year. See http://www.romfea.gr/diafora/6091-ekleise-to-kommati-tis-thematologias-tis-panorthodojou They are: (1) Autocephaly and its manner of proclamation; (2) The Diptychs; and (3) The matter of a common calendar. With respect to the first two issues, the Ecumenical Patriarch in his opening address acknowledges that there has never been agreement on these issues in the preparatory process. However, he states that agreement was reached on a document relating to the calendar at the Preconciliar Pan-Orthodox Consultation (1982). However, the recent editing of the calendar document has resulted in an impasse. In his opening address to the synaxis, Patriarch Kirill stated that a more accurate determination of the date of Pascha is not at all relevant for the Orthodox Church and can only sow discord among many believers. https://mospat.ru/en/2016/01/22/news127085/ (this is the official English translation of Patriarch Kirill’s address which became available late yesterday)
There thus remains the two documents that were discussed at the synaxis today. I suspect that the document on the Orthodox Diaspora will also be discussed at the synaxis. The document on ecumenism is no longer a separate document but is now part of the document on relations to the rest of the Christian world. The rules for the conduct of the Council, now being drafted by a special committee for consideration by the synaxis, is, of course, indispensable for the holding of the Council.
The opening addresses of some of the other primates are now available: Serbia http://www.spc.rs/eng/address_serbian_patriarch_synaxis_primates_local_orthodox_churches_geneva ; Bulgaria http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=194144 ; Cyprus http://www.churchofcyprus.org.cy/article.php?articleID=5902 . The official English translation of Patriarch Daniel is also available: http://basilica.ro/patriarch-daniel-the-future-pan-orthodox-synod-represents-an-important-historical-event-for-the-development-of-synodality-on-a-pan-orthodox-level-111608-en.html
The German news agency KNA has reported that the choice of Crete as the location for the Council was suggested by Metropolitan Emanuel (Adamakis) of France (Ecumenical Patriarchate). http://www.katholisch.de/aktuelles/aktuelle-artikel/orthodoxes-konzil-findet-auf-kreta-statt He is a native of Crete. Also unlike certain other churches, the church in Crete has the financial resources to host such a major event.
On a completely different subject, Pope Francis celebrated vespers today to close the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The entire service can be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uS-NcleKgP4 . The Pope was accompanied on his right by Metropolitan Gennadios of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The English translation of the full text of the Pope’s homily can be read at http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/01/25/pope_francis_homily_for_christian_unity_vespers/1203661 . In part of his homily, he stated: As Bishop of Rome and pastor of the Catholic Church, I want to ask for mercy and forgiveness for the behavior of Catholics towards Christians of other Churches which has not reflected Gospel values. At the same time, I invite all Catholic brothers and sisters to forgive if they, today or in the past, have been offended by other Christians. We cannot cancel out what has happened, but we do not want to let the weight of past faults continue to contaminate our relationships. God’s mercy will renew our relationships.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
24 January 2016: Council to be held in Crete
The Romanian Patriarchate continues to be the best source of information about the developments at the synaxis. The following link conveys some very exciting news. http://basilica.ro/sfantul-si-marele-sinod-panortodox-se-va-intruni-in-creta-grecia--111604.html I have pasted the Google translation below:
His Beatitude Daniel, Patriarch of the Romanian Orthodox Church said Sunday, January 24, 2016, that the Holy Great Pan-Orthodox Synod in June this year will meet in Crete (Greece) and not Constantinople (Turkey), as it was established so far. His Beatitude announced this today during a visit to the Chapel of the Romanian community in Geneva.
"We hope that the joy of the Holy and Great Pan-Orthodox Synod will be held in June, close to Pentecost or Pentecost. This time we can say that it will not take place in Constantinople as planned, but in Crete because it should be in a Christian Orthodox country. Turkey is now eminently a Muslim country, and we hope that in the coming days to finalize the text for which a consensus has not yet been reached and conclude the work that lasts 50 years or more. We said that this future council is not the last, it is not an eschatological council preceding the end of the world, but a good start for other councils every 5, 7 or 10 years, because new problems appear, " said the Patriarch of Romania .
As you know, Crete is a part of the nation of Greece, but it is not under the jurisdiction of the Church of Greece. Rather, it is under the jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The church in Crete goes back to apostolic times. Saint Paul visited Crete on his fourth missionary journey, and Titus became the first bishop of Crete. Let us hope and pray that the words of Patriarch Daniel are not overly optimistic and that the synaxis will successfully complete its work this week. Romfea.gr has reported, based on unspecified sources, that certain matters have now been resolved and that progress is being made at the synaxis. http://www.romfea.gr/diafora/6091-ekleise-to-kommati-tis-thematologias-tis-panorthodojou
A 6-minute video showing Patriarch Daniel’s address to the synaxis may be viewed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c_ZLybirSVo .
The primates celebrated together the Divine Liturgy this morning at Chambesy. Photos of the liturgy can be seen at http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/6082-diorthodojo-sulleitourgo-sto-sampezu-tis-geneuis and http://www.amen.gr/article/labri-diorthodoksi-theia-leitourgia-sto-sabezy . The latter link states that the delegation of the Patriarchate of Antioch did not participate in the liturgy because Antioch has severed communion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, and the Patriarch of Jerusalem was involved in the liturgy. This certainly indicates that the Qatar jurisdictional dispute has not yet been resolved.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
24 January 2016: Synaxis - day two
A video of Patriarch Kirill’s address to the synaxis may now be viewed on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LumwJEqmmkg Even if you cannot understand Russian, the 15-minute video is very interesting in that it also includes views of the opening of synaxis and many views of the various delegates. The Patriarch’s remarks are summarized in Russian at https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/01/22/news127085/. This summary has been translated into English at http://www.events.orthodoxengland.org.uk/an-inffective-methodology-for-a-pan-orthodox-council/ . Patriarch Kirill spends considerable time discussing the situation in Ukraine (Metropolitan Onufry, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church – MP, is seated next to him). Patriarch Kirill stresses the need for further preparation so that the pan-Orthodox Council will truly be a demonstration of Orthodox unity. He states that draft documents should be made available for public discussion. Viewing this summary, it is clear, to me at least, that the Moscow Patriarchate will probably be taking the position that the Council tentatively planned for Pentecost should be delayed. Although there are arguments for and against the publication of draft documents, it is fairly clear that a public discussion of the issues presented by these drafts is a process that cannot be completed between now and Pentecost.
I found especially interesting the remarks at the synaxis by Patriarch Daniel of Romania. http://basilica.ro/patriarhul-romaniei-un-eveniment-istoric-important-pentru-a-dezvolta-practica-sinodalitatii-la-nivel-panortodox-111589.html (again use the Google translation tool) Patriarch Daniel’s view appears to be quite different from the view of Patriarch Kirill. Patriarch Daniel states: ”The Ecumenical Patriarch’s introductory report shows that the final preparation of the Holy and Great Orthodox Council is a difficult task, but not impossible if we ask God's help and work with great responsibility. The world has already been informed of the meeting of the Holy and Great Orthodox Council in June this year, 2016. On the other hand, there are some theologians, Orthodox monks and lay people who believe that a Pan-Orthodox Synod is not necessary at this time or that it is not sufficiently prepared (although there has been more than 50 years of preparing).” However, Patriarch Daniel goes even further. He states that although synodality has been the rule within the Local Orthodox Churches, it “must” also be the rule for the universal Orthodox Church. From his perspective, pan-Orthodox Councils should be held every five, seven, or ten years. They should be held “to discuss issues for which a consensus does not now exist or new subjects related to current issues in church life and society.” Contrary to some conservatives, Patriarch Daniel states that holding a pan-Orthodox Council is not “an eschatological events (preceding the end of the world).”
Certain remarks made by Romanian Metropolitan Nifon, a delegate at the synaxis, have been reported at http://basilica.ro/a-doua-zi-a-sinaxei-Intaistatatorilor-de-biserici-ortodoxe-111596.html . The Metropolitan has stated to Romanian Radio Trinitas that the synaxis has appointed a committee of seven persons to draft rules for the pan-Orthodox Council. The mission of the committee is to begin its work immediately and to present the draft rules within two days to the synaxis for its approval. This certainly indicates that the synaxis has not given up hope that the pan-Orthodox Council will be held in June.
The complete text of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s opening address in Greek to the synaxis is now available at http://www.ec-patr.org/docdisplay.php?lang=gr&id=2116&tla=gr . I have not yet found an English translation of the complete text.
The Greek website, Amen.gr, which is very supportive of the Ecumenical Patriarch, posted today in Greek an article by Dr. Nicolas Kazarian, a lecturer at the Saint-Serge Institute in Paris. The English-language article was posted two days earlier by the Divinity School of the University of Chicago. http://us6.campaign-archive2.com/?u=6b2c705bf61d6edb1d5e0549d&id=4fed084a07&e=dcd64f6600 The title of the article is: Fate of Orthodox Christianity's Great and Holy Council Hangs in the Balance. The first sentence reads: During the meeting of Christian Orthodox Primates (heads of local Orthodox churches), which begins today in Switzerland, the participants will show the world whether the unity of the Orthodox Church is more important than their particular agendas.
The address by the Patriarch of Jerusalem to the synaxis is available at http://www.jp-newsgate.net/gr/2016/01/22/31821#more-31821. A report by the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (MP) can be read at http://news.church.ua/2016/01/23/shvejcariya-predstoyatel-upc-vzyav-uchast-u-roboti-pershogo-dnya-zibrannya-pervoijerarxiv-pomisnix-pravoslavnix-cerkov/ .
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
23 January 2016: Synaxis - day one
The synaxis of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches had its opening session at Chambesy, Switzerland, today (Friday) beginning at 1600. Many photos of the opening session can be seen at http://www.amen.gr/article/fotostigmes-apo-ti-synaksi-ton-prokathimenon-sto-sabezy and at http://basilica.ro/au-debutat-lucrarile-sinaxei-Intaistatatorilor-de-biserici-ortodoxe-111584.html
The Moscow Patriarchate has issued a list of all of the delegates from the 14 Local Orthodox Churches and provided a summary of today’s proceedings (use the Google translation tool to translate the Russian). https://mospat.ru/ru/2016/01/22/news127076/
The Romanian Patriarchate has posted in English a summary of the opening remarks of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
http://basilica.ro/ecumenical-patriarch-the-holy-and-great-synod-is-of-direct-and-vital-interest-both-for-the-orthodox-and-for-the-rest-of-the-christian-world-111586-en.html I have pasted this summary below.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
From 22 to 27 January 2016, at the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, the works of the Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches are being carried out.
At the opening of the event, His Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, delivered a speech thanking the other Primates of the Orthodox Churches, as well as the delegations, for accepting to change the place of the Synaxis from the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s residence in Istanbul, Turkey, to the Chambésy Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which is “meant for serving the pan-Orthodox unity, and which for a long time has hosted and still hosts many inter-Orthodox and pan-Orthodox meetings”.
Next, the Ecumenical Patriarch referred to the themes that will be discussed at the Holy and Great Synod, themes that have been established at the first Presynodal Pan-Orthodox Conference of 1976, namely:
- The Orthodox Diaspora;
- Autocephaly and the way it is to be proclaimed;
- Autonomy and the way it is to be proclaimed;
- Common Calendar;
- Impediments to marriage;
- Adaptation of the fasting ordinances;
- Relations of the Orthodox Churches with the whole Christian World;
- The Orthodoxy and the ecumenical movement;
- Contributions of the local Orthodox Churches to the promotion of the Christian ideals of peace, freedom, brotherhood and love among peoples, and elimination of racial discrimination.
Nevertheless, His Holiness noted that consensus hasn’t been reached on some themes during the meetings of the Commission for the Preparation of the Holy and Great Synod, thus asking whether the 8 themes that were validated at a Pan-Orthodox level are sufficient for the agenda of the Synod, or is it necessary to postpone the convocation of the Synod until the pan-Orthodox unanimity will be reached upon all the other themes (autocephaly, diptychs, impediments to marriage and common calendar).
The Holy and Great Synod is of direct and vital interest both for the Orthodox lay faithful, clergy and monastics, and for the rest of the Christian world
Emphasizing the fact that “the Holy and Great Synod is of direct and vital interest both for the Orthodox lay faithful, clergy and monastics, and for the rest of the Christian world”, His Holiness added that several other persons should attend to the works of the Holy and Great Synod as observers: both clergy, monastics and lay faithful of the Orthodox Church, and those of other Christian Churches or Confessions, found in dialogue with the Orthodox Church. The Ecumenical Patriarch offered as an example the fact that at the works of the Second Vatican Council, the Orthodox Church delegated persons as observers to attend the Council.
Referring to the fact that even before the meeting of the Holy and Great Synod, some “fighters for Orthodoxy” call it a robber council, the Ecumenical Patriarch asks what kind of authority will its decisions have, and which are going to be the canonical consequences in case of disobeying these decisions.
The Patriarch of Constantinople also spoke about the significance of the words consensus and unanimity. Furthermore, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew emphasized the fact that “if a synod meets under the threat of its dissolution, it had better not taken place” and referred to some Ecumenical Synods that met even when some local Churches were absent.
His Holiness addressed to other practical details: the duration of the Holy and Great Synod, and the establishment of a common secretariat of the Synod. The Ecumenical Patriarch proposed that the Pan-Orthodox Synod should be carried out for at least two weeks, and its works should be accompanied by religious manifestations.
“Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13: 11) were the biblical words with which His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew concluded his speech.
20 January 2016: Onufry to Chambesy
Today the Moscow Patriarchate announced that Patriarch Kirill will attend the assembly (synaxis) of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches which will begin tomorrow. An English version of the announcement can be read at https://mospat.ru/en/2016/01/20/news126983/ It appears that in addition to the primate, each Local Orthodox Church will be allowed three delegates who will participate in the deliberations. For Moscow, two of the delegates are Metropolitan Hilarion and archpriest Nikolai Balashov, DECR vice-chairman. The selection of these two individuals is not surprising. However, the third delegate, Metropolitan Onufry of Kiev and All Ukraine, is an extremely interesting choice. As I have previously reported, Metropolitan Onufry has misgivings about the very idea of holding a pan-Orthodox Council. Extensive quotations of his remarks on this subject were posted yesterday at http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=117904 . It includes a statement that a proposal not to participate in the pan-Orthodox Council will be considered at the Bishops Council of the Moscow Patriarchate which will be held in Moscow on February 2-3. According to Metropolitan Onufry, participation in the pan-Orthodox Council “may be a greater evil than the refusal to participate.” It appears to me that the inclusion of Metropolitan Onufry in the delegation may be a wise decision. He can personally express to the other Local Orthodox Churches his own misgivings. The very fact that he is personally involved in this critical aspect of preparation may serves to allay some of his own suspicions and misgivings. If the Bishops Council of the Moscow Patriarchate, the largest of the Local Orthodox Churches, decided against participation, there would simply be no pan-Orthodox Council. After decades of preparation for a pan-Orthodox Council, such a decision at the last minute would be a great shock to the Orthodox world and the world in general. I think that it is apparent that both Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion believe that there should be a pan-Orthodox Council, although a signficiant portion of the Russian faithful probably share the misgivings of Metropolitan Onufry.
Yesterday, the Ecumenical Patriarch left the Phanar for Chambesy. http://www.amen.gr/article/fotostigmes-apo-tin-anaxorisi-tou-oikoumenikou-patriarxi-gia-ti-genevi Patriarch Neofit and a delegation from the Bulgarian Patriarchate will in fact be attending the assembly in Chambesy. http://www.romfea.gr/patriarxeia-ts/patriarxeio-boulgarias/5996-paron-stin-sunaji-ton-prokathimenon-o-patriarxis-boulgarias
Lastly, Seraphim (Kykkotis) of Zimbabwe (Patriarchate of Alexandria) has written an interesting article describing the issues to be faced at Chambesy from his personal perspective. http://www.amen.gr/article/i-simasia-tis-synakseos-ton-prokathimenon-sti-genevi Below is a (poor) Google translation of the first part of the article. As can be seen from the article, it appears that there are plans for the primates to issue an important common declaration at the time of their liturgy on January 24.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
As officially announced by the Ecumenical Patriarchate "said Synaxis will address issues related to the preparation of his Holy and Great Synod, which it was decided would be held in the present year."
The issues to be addressed by the Holy and Great Synod, established by the previous Synaxis of the Primates held in March 2014, were of course chosen from the list of themes and relevant texts prepared at the pan-Orthodox Conferences and inter-Orthodox meetings, initiated in 1961 and continued in their inter-Orthodox work until October last year.
The issues to be addressed eventually, at the first session of the Holy and Great Synod in the current year, are as follows:
- The importance of fasting and its observance today
- Relations of the Orthodox Church to the rest of the Christian world (this includes the issue of the Orthodox Church and the ecumenical movement).
- The mission of the Orthodox Church in the modern world. The contribution of the Orthodox Church in the promotion of peace, justice, freedom, brotherhood and love between peoples and the overcoming of racial and other discrimination.
Among others in Geneva, the Primates have to decide on the following matters:
- To confirm the date of the commencement and the completion of the work of the Great and Holy Synod (beginning at Pentecost the current year)
- Following the crisis in relations between Turkey and Russia, where the Russian Government urges citizens not to visit Turkey, should now be discussed in Geneva the place of the assembly of members of the Great and Holy Synod.
- To finalize the above issues of the Holy and Great Council
- Confirm the number of bishops participating from each Local Orthodox Church (the Primate and 24 bishops, the Orthodox Churches are 14 and some of them have a smaller number, can fill the number 24 with other clergy?)
- How can the participation of the laity, particularly theologians, men, women and young people as observers, be ensured.
- Can we receive observers in the work of the Synod or in some parts of its operations? Among outside observers may attend the Orthodox and non-Orthodox?
- How would the financial burden of the Synod be spread
- Mutual information about the difficulties faced by the countries of the ecclesiastical jurisdictions of the Primates (Africa, Middle East, Eastern Europe)
- Preparation of the common proclamation of the Primates at the inter-Orthodox liturgies of the Primates on 24 January which shall contain the following items and of course what they deem [appropriate]
- Unity of the Church in the Orthodox faith
- Testimony of the Orthodox Church in the modern world for the salvation and the solution of the impasses faced
- Contribution of the Orthodox Church for the promotion of peace and an end to local and regional conflicts.
d. The persecution of Christians
- Religious fanaticism
- The problem of refugees and immigrants
- The destruction of the environment and the problems of climate change
- The importance of strengthening inter-Orthodox cooperation
- Theological and religious dialogue on the protection of humanity and the protection of human rights
Moreover, the Primates have to decide the last issue that has arisen at the impasse reached by the inter-Orthodox Commission early December in Athens last year, if one Local Church is not involved, the work of the Great and Holy Synod cannot be carried out. This question is raised by the Patriarchate of Antioch, insisting that we must first resolve its conflict with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem as to normal ecclesiastical jurisdiction in Qatar.
19 January 2016: Serbian Patriarchate at the Vatican
Last Saturday, the Vatican Press Office listed as one of the audiences of Pope Francis a meeting with “Delegazione del Patriarcato Serbo-Ortodosso.” http://press.vatican.va/content/salastampa/it/bollettino/pubblico/2016/01/16/0027/00050.html Although clearly announced, the audience was apparently ignored by the media. However, this morning (Monday) a Belgrade newspaper “broke the news” that there had been an unannounced meeting with Pope Francis and a delegation of the Serbian Patriarchate. http://www.novosti.rs/vesti/naslovna/drustvo/aktuelno.290.html:586588-NOVOSTI-SAZNAJU-SPC-u-Vatikanu-ugovarala-papinu-posetu-Beogradu An English-language summary of the article can be read at http://www.b92.net/eng/news/society.php?yyyy=2016&mm=01&dd=18&nav_id=96729 . This afternoon Bishop Irinej of Backa, probably the second most influential prelate of the Serbian Patriarchate and a member of the delegation which visited Pope Francis, issued a communique relating to the meeting. http://www.spc.rs/sr/saopshtenje_za_javnost_27 .
In my opinion, this communique conveys good news. It states that the delegation consisted of Metropolitan Amfilohije of Montenegro, Bishop Irinej of Backa, and Professor Darko Tanasković (Ambassador to the Holy See, 2002-2008). It describes the meeting with Pope Francis on January 16 in the most positive terms: The conversation was cordial, frank and open, and not in the normal diplomatic meaning of those words, but in a true Christian, spiritual sense. Both sides pursued the truth in love, in the words of the holy Apostle Paul, without craftiness and pretense. [See Ephesians 4:14-15] The communique also mentioned meetings with others at the Vatican including Cardinal Koch.
Later this afternoon, Metropolitan Amfilohije was interviewed by the Serbian news agency Tanjug. http://www.tanjug.rs/full-view.aspx?izb=224662 You may recall that at end of May, the final communique of the Assembly of Bishops of the Serbian Orthodox Church confirmed that the Serbian Patriarchate had agreed to the Vatican’s suggestion to establish a joint commission with the Catholic Church to examine the historical facts relating to Croatian Cardinal Stepinac (1898-1960), who is viewed in extremely different ways by Catholics and Orthodox. In the interview, Metropolian Amfilohije stated that during Saturday’s meeting the Serbian Patriarchate gave to the Pope the names of its representatives on this joint commission. They are: Bishop Irinej of Backa; Orthodox Metropolitan Porfirije of Zagreb-Ljubljana; and Professor Tanasković. They will be assisted by a group of experts and advisors. Metropolitan Amfilohije also stated that the Serbian Patriarchate hopes that the Vatican will now appoint its members and that the work of the joint commission will begin “as soon as possible.” In my opinion this is a very positive development. The Serbian Patriarchate is very concerned that Cardinal Stepinac, who was beatified in 1998, will now be canonized. I suspect that any canonization will await the results of the joint commission.
Lastly, today marks the beginning of the annual Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. Philippa Hitchen of Vatican Radio has done an interesting interview of Cardinal Koch concerning the ecumenical perspective for the year ahead. http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/01/18/cardinal_koch_on_week_of_prayer_and_2016_ecumenical_agenda/1201990 His comments concerning the Orthodox and the pan-Orthodox Council can be heard at 6:26 in the interview.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
18 January 2016: Communique on Synaxis
Today, the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued its communique on the synaxis (assembly) of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches to be held at Chambesy, January 21-28. The English text has just been posted at http://www.amen.gr/article/communique-of-the-ecumenical-patriarchate-about-the-synaxis-of-the-primates-in-geneva .
As you can read, all of the primates of the 14 Local Orthodox Churches will be attending except for Patriarch John X of Antioch, Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, and Metropolitan Sava of Poland. The latter three churches will be represented by delegations. Presumably, the eleven primates who will be attending will have delegations as well. Although health is given as the reason for the non-attendance by Patriarch John, one imagines whether the cessation of communion between Antioch and Jerusalem over the Qatar jurisdictional dispute might also be a motivating reason.
In my opinion, this meeting in Chambesy is in a sense the REAL pan-Orthodox Council. It will perform the role traditionally performed by the historic Councils – issues will be debated and hopefully resolutions will be reached. Under the procedure adopted by the Local Orthodox Churches for the formal pan –Orthodox Council tentatively planned for Pentecost, all matters, substantive and procedural, must be determined by a 100 percent consensus before the Council is convened. Thus, the real work of the Council will occur next week. What happens on Pentecost will be a formal proclamation to the world as to what will be resolved next week. The time that the work of the Holy Spirit and the prayers of the faithful are really needed is next week.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
15 January 2016: Exact terms of Czech-Slovak settlement
The exact terms of the agreement relating to the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia (“the Church”) are now available in English as is the letter of apology by Archbishop Ratislav. http://www.amen.gr/article/oi-oroi-gia-tin-apokatastasi-tis-enotitas-stin-ekklisia-tis-tsexias-kai-slovakias (scroll down – the English version follows the Greek). An actual photocopy of the signed agreement in Greek can be seen at http://pravoslavnacirkev.cz/files/Dohoda%20Fanar%20GR%2012%2013%201%202016.compressed.pdf . To my untrained eye, it appears that the Church acknowledges that it received its autocephalous status “only” from Constantinople in 1998 and implicitly not from Moscow in 1951. The agreement also recognizes (without establishing a precedent) the elections of Archbishop Mihail of Prague and Bishop Isiah, vicar bishop of Archbishop Simeon. It appears that this will give the Czech (pro-Constantinople) faction a 3-2 majority in the Church’s Holy Synod. Thus, the Slovak (pro-Moscow) faction receives the office of primate, but the Czech (pro-Constantinople) faction receives a majority in the Holy Synod.
On January 14, a special meeting of Holy Synod of the Romanian Patriarchate was held at the patriarchal residence to discuss the meeting of the primates to be held at Chambesy, January 21-28. http://basilica.ro/edinta-de-lucru-a-sfantului-sinod-al-bisericii-ortodoxe-romane-111468.html The official report states that the meeting of the primates “aims to assess and validate the texts to be submitted for debate and approval at the future pan-Orthodox Council in June this year, the feast of Pentecost.” Patriarch Daniel refers to this meeting as being “extremely important.”
I have not yet seen on the Internet any statements by the Moscow Patriarchate as to whether Patriarch Kirill or a delegation will attend the Chambesy meeting.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
13 January 2016: Some progress!!!
Today, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia reached an agreement which hopefully resolves the bitter dispute which has divided this small Church. The agreement was the result of a meeting that was held at the Phanar yesterday and today. The meeting was chaired by Metropolitan Ioannis (Zizioulas). This wonderful news has been announced by the two prominent Greek Orthodox websites, Romfea.gr and Amen.gr. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/5854-apokleistiko-to-oikoumeniko-patriarxeio-anagnorise-ton-tsexias-rastislab ; http://www.amen.gr/article/eirinefsi-stin-ekklisia-tsexias-kai-slovakias-me-tin-sfragida-tou-oikoumenikou-patriarxeiou-foto The Amen.gr website has photos from the meeting. Romfea.gr mentions some of the terms of the agreement, which apparently have not yet been made public. It appears that the terms include the following: (1) Archbishop Ratislav is recognized by the Ecumenical Patriarch as the primate of the Church after apologizing for his intemperate remarks directed against the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Greeks in general -- recorded in the YouTube video (https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=17&v=F1ZXSIacY_k) . (2) Relations are restored between Archbishop Ratislav and Archbishop Simeon. At this point, it is not clear whether the agreement resolves the status of the two disputed members of the Holy Synod. However, the disputed vicar bishop of Archbishop Simeon attended the meeting at the Phanar, and this is at least an indication that his status was recognized. (3) The Church agrees to adhere to the terms of the tomas in which the Church was granted autocephalous status by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Ecumenical Patriarchate had earlier objected to the Church referring in its statutes to its receiving autocephalous status from the Moscow Patriarchate and not mentioning the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Presumably in the next few days, more details will be known. It appears that one of the problems impeding the holding of the pan-Orthodox Council has now been solved. Hooray!
Today, the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece confirmed that the Church would be represented at the January 21 meeting of primates by three metropolitans and not by the primate Archbishop Ieronymos. http://www.amen.gr/article/trimelis-adiprosopeia-tis-ekklisias-tis-ellados-sti-synaksi-ton-prokathimenon-sti-genevi However, there has been one change in the membership of the delegation from that announced last month by the Holy Synod. Metropolitan Chrysostomos of Messinia will now be a member of the delegation and not Metropolitan Seraphim of Karystia. Metropolitan Chrysostomos has a good relationship with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The foregoing report by Amen.gr also states that the meeting of the primates will occur in Geneva (presumably Chambesy) from January 21 to 28. The fact that the primates are apparently scheduled to meet for an entire week indicates that this will be a working meeting, presumably to solve the problems impeding the holding of the pan-Orthodox Council. On January 10, Romfea.gr reported that the Ecumenical Patriarch had sent a representative to meet with Archbishop Ieronymos to persuade him to attend the January 21 meeting personally, but the representative received a negative response. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/5788-pieseis-gia-summetoxi-sti-sunaji-dexetai-o-arxiepiskopos
The Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Antioch met on Monday to discuss the issues relating to the holding of the pan-Orthodox Council. http://www.antiochpatriarchate.org/ar/page/%D8%AC%D9%84%D8%B3%D8%A9-%D8%AA%D8%B4%D8%A7%D9%88%D8%B1%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D9%84%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AC%D9%85%D8%B9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D9%86%D8%B7%D8%A7%D9%83%D9%8A-%D9%84%D9%84%D8%B1-%D9%88%D9%85-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%B1%D8%AB%D9%88%D8%B0%D9%83%D8%B3-%D8%AD%D9%88%D9%84-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%85%D8%AC%D9%85%D8%B9-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%A3%D8%B1%D8%AB%D9%88%D8%B0%D9%83%D8%B3%D9%8A-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%83%D8%A8%D9%8A%D8%B1/1297/ At the end, Patriarch John stressed the importance of convening the pan-Orthodox Council as a sign to the world of Orthodox unity with respect to the challenges facing modern man. Is this a sign of hope that the Antioch – Jerusalem dispute will not block the holding of the Council?
Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk, DECR secretary for inter-Orthodox relations, has informed RIA-Novesti that the Moscow Patriarchate has not yet received an official letter of invitation from the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He stated that questions concerning a Geneva meeting will be decided by the Moscow Patriarchate after such a letter is received. http://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/160111a.html (English translation by Paul Steeves)
Yesterday, the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Patriarchate met to discuss the January 21 meeting. http://www.bg-patriarshia.bg/news.php?id=193139 It decided that the attendance of its Patriarch is conditioned on his receiving promptly the agenda for the meeting and also on resolving the issue of the identity of the primate of the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia (now, of course, resolved).
The next two weeks will be crucial for the Orthodox world. Let’s pray that the problems facing holding of the pan-Orthodox Council will be resolved.
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA
6 January 2016: Primates's meeting - January 21
Today, the Greek website Romfea.gr posted a report that the meeting of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches to prepare for the pan-Orthodox Council is scheduled for January 21. http://www.romfea.gr/epikairotita-xronika/5652-eligmos-tou-oikoumenikou-patriarxi-gia-tin-sunaji The article also states that the meeting may ultimately be held in Geneva, rather than Constantinople, because of the restrictions on Russians traveling to Turkey. As I previously reported, the Church of Greece will send a high-ranking delegation, but not its primate, to the January meeting. It remains to be seen whether other primates will decide not to attend personally.
The Ecumenical Patriarch, on the occasion of the new year, reaffirmed that preparations for the pan-Orthodox Council will continue despite the reported obstacles. http://www.amen.gr/article/oikoumenikos-patriarxis-tha-synexisoume-para-ta-parousiazomena-ebodia-tin-proetoimasia-tis-agias-kai-megalis-synodou On the other hand, Metropolitan Hilarion, in an interview on December 25, made his strongest statement to date that the Council may be delayed. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=12637 (English summary); https://mospat.ru/ru/2015/12/30/news126496/ (full interview)
One of the problems mentioned by Metropolitan Hilarion is the non-recognition by some Local Orthodox Churches of the primate of the Orthodox Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia. I have reported on this dispute on a number of occasions. Last month, there were some new developments which make the situation in that Church even more confusing. On December 17, the Holy Synod of that Church, at a meeting attended by only three member (Archbishop Michal, Archbishop Simeon, and Bishop Izaias), decided that the election of Archbishop Ratislav as primate was invalid and that a new election for a primate should be held within six months. An actual photocopy of this decision is at http://pravoslavnacirkev.cz/Novinky/Usnesen-Posvtnho-synodu-Pravoslavn-crkve-v-eskch-zemch-a-na-Slovensku/ . A Russian-language summary can be read to http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=117641 . A detailed explanation by Archbishop Michal of this decision may be read at http://pravoslavnacirkev.cz/Novinky/Obnk-arcibiskupa-praskho-a-eskch-zem-Michala/ . On December 23, Archbishop Ratislav wrote an extremely strong response and, of course, did not recognize the “decision.” A photocopy of his letter is at https://krizevcirkvi.wordpress.com/ . A full Russian translation of his letter may be read at http://diak-kuraev.livejournal.com/1049582.html
The validity of the decision depends in part on who are proper members of the Holy Synod of this small Local Church. There are six people involved. It appears that four bishops are clearly members of the Synod: Archbishops Michal and Simeon – both with dioceses in the Czech Republic and with sympathies toward Constantinople; and Archbishop Ratislav and Bishop Juraj – both with dioceses in Slovakia and with sympathies toward Moscow. There are two bishops in dispute: Bishop Izaias, Simeon’s newly-elected vicar bishop, whose elected is not recognized by Ratislav and Juraj; and Archbishop Jachym who resigned (under pressure??) as the archbishop of Prague. If Bishop Izaias is properly a Synod member and Jachym is not, then, and only then, does the December 17 decision have majority support. If both of these individuals are properly members, then there is a 3-3 deadlock. As all of the primates of the Local Orthodox Churches are to sit at the head table (with the Ecumenical Patriarch presiding) at the pan-Orthodox Council and all of the primates are to attend the January 21 meeting, who will represent the Czech and Slovak Church?
In addition to the well-known problems which may prevent the holding of the pan-Orthodox Council this spring (namely, the lack of consensus on the procedural rules, the reaching of consensus on only three of eight substantive documents to be approved by the Council, the dispute with respect to the primate of the Czech and Slovak Church, and the lack of communion between the Patriarchates of Antioch and Jerusalem caused by the Qatar jurisdictional dispute), there are also growing misgivings by some conservative Orthodox over the idea of holding any Council. These fears and suspicious are illustrated by recent remarks reportedly made by Metropolitan Onufry, the head of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church (Moscow Patriarchate), to his clergy. http://www.religion.in.ua/main/daycomment/31430-bozhij-dar-z-yayechneyu-vrazhennya-ochevidciv-vid-yeparxialnix-zboriv-kiyivskoyi-yeparxiyi-upc.html ; http://risu.org.ua/en/index/all_news/orthodox/orthodox_world/62079/ (English summary). The English report summaries some of Onufry’s comments on the Council as follows: [T]he process of decision-making in the Council causes distrust. In his view, it may happen that the one version of the document will be voted for and a different one will be submitted for signature, and therefore, Metropolitan Onufriy said, there is an idea to refuse from participation at all – otherwise there will be lots of temptations and divisions.” I suspect that the Moscow Patriarchate will finalize its position with respect to the pan-Orthodox Council at its Bishops Council that will be held in Moscow, February 2-3.
In other news, Metropolitan Hilarion has stated that Patriarch Kirill plans to visit Cuba in February. http://www.interfax-religion.com/?act=news&div=12636 I also just discovered that Metropolitan Hilarion has his own website. http://www.hilarion.ru/
Finally, as expected, there have been many comments in the Russian media about the discharge of Father Vsevolod Chaplin. Paul Steeves has translated into English a number of the articles and posted them on his excellent website. http://www2.stetson.edu/~psteeves/relnews/00currentchoices.shtml Chaplin is continuing to make commentaries on various aspect of church life on his Facebook page.
https://www.facebook.com/prot.v.chaplin Sergei Chapnin, the discharged editor at the Journal of the Moscow Patriarchate, has recently given an extensive interview on a number of subjects. http://www.portal-credo.ru/site/?act=news&id=117731 He also is using his Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/chapnin Although both individuals have many “friends” on Facebook, it remains to be seen whether their observations (valid or invalid) will find a sympathetic ear in the Russian Orthodox Church in general.
FOR ALL OF YOU CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS ON THURSDAY, I WISH YOU A VERY BLESSED AND JOYFUL NATIVITY OF OUR LORD!
Peter Anderson, Seattle USA