Crete.- Photo: Dimitrios Panagos
The Holy and Great Council held its concluding session on the 25th of June 2016, at the Orthodox Academy of Crete. The work of the Council had commenced with the Patriarchal Concelebration on the Sunday of Pentecost, the 19th of June 2016, when the Divine Liturgy was presided over by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch, in Concelebration with the Primates of the Local Orthodox Autocephalous Churches, who were present, in the Cathedral of St. Minas in Heraklion, Crete.
During the sessions of the Holy and Great Council, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew expressed his joy, for the willing and positive response of the Local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches in attendance. At the same time, he underlined the immense efforts, over many years, by all Autocephalous Churches in preparation of the topics on the Council’s agenda.
The Council was convened after over 50 years of preparations. Of the 14 national Orthodox churches, four did not attend the event, including the Patriarchate of the Russian Orthodox Church, the Georgian and Bulgarian Orthodox Churches, as well as the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East.
The Primates of Local Orthodox Autocephalous Churches who participated in the Holy and Great Council, stressed the importance as well as the historical significance of the convocation of this Council. They also expressed their confidence that the Council opens a new era of conciliarity, for the Orthodox Church to express its positions on the contemporary problems of man in the world.
The sessions of the Council were not attended by the delegations of the Holy Orthodox Churches of Antioch, Russia, Bulgaria, and Georgia.
The issues discussed in the Holy and Great Council, covered important topics such as, the Mission of the Orthodox Church in the modern world, the Orthodox Diaspora and the Operational Regulations of the Episcopal Assemblies, the Autonomy and the way for proclaiming it, the importance of Fasting and its compliance today, the Sacrament of Matrimony and its impediments, and the relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world.
The Greek state headed by the President of the Hellenic Republic Mr. Prokopis Pavlopoulos, and the Greek government honored the Holy and Great Council in many ways and facilitated its work.
The work of the Holy and Great Council was officially concluded on June 26th 2016, Sunday of All Saints, with the Patriarchal Concelebration. The Divine Liturgy was presided over by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in Concelebration with the Primates of the Local Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, at the Holy Church of Saints Peter and Paul, in Chania, Crete.
Ηis All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew mentioned in his Homily that we should understand the Church as “substantially Synodical,” and the whole life of the Church as “life in Synod,” adding that the Synodical Decisions of the Holy and Great Council should be introduced in the life of the local Orthodox Churches.
His All-Holiness added that conciliarity is another word that characterizes the unity, holiness, catholicity and apostolicity of the Church, referring to its Eucharistic and eschatological identity and consciousness.
“If, as has been fittingly said, the 21st century could and ought to prove to be, the ‘century of Orthodoxy,’ then the Holy and Great Council of our Most Holy Church, by the grace of God who is worshipped in Trinity and is Lord of All, has laid the foundation stone for the realization of this God-pleasing vision.”
The Orthodox Church has declared its unity in the message of the Pan-Orthodox Council.
“The key priority of the Council was to proclaim the unity of the Orthodox Church… The Orthodox Autocephalous Churches do not constitute a federation of Churches, but the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church,” the message reads.
The Orthodox Church stands for the protection of human rights from the power of state, as well as environment protection, the Pan-Orthodox Council participants said in a message Sunday.
“Human rights today are at the center of politics as a response to the social and political crises and upheavals, and seek to protect the citizen from the arbitrary power of the state. The Church never ceases to emphasise that future generations also have a right to the the natural resources that the Creator has given us. For this reason, the Orthodox Church takes an active part in the various international ecological initiatives and has ordained the 1st September as a day of prayer for the protection of the natural environment,” the message read.
In addition, the Orthodox Church declared it could become a regular institution to be convened every seven or ten years.
The Orthodox Church intends to maintain inter-religious dialogue in order to promote relations with other churches, the Pan-Orthodox Council participants said in a message Sunday.
“… our Church attaches great importance to dialogue, primarily with non Orthodox Christians. Sober inter-religious dialogue helps significantly to promote mutual trust, peace and reconciliation. The oil of religious experience must be used to heal wounds and not to rekindle the fire of military conflicts,” the message reads.
Orthodox Church has condemned hostilities in the Middle East, urged to stop expulsion of people and destruction of christian monuments, the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church said in a message released on Sunday.
“The Orthodox Church unequivocally condemns the extension of military violence, the expulsion and murder of members of religious minorities. She denounces the destruction of churches, religious symbols and cultural monuments… Our Council appeals to all parties involved to make systematic efforts without delay to bring to an end the military conflicts in the Middle East ” the message read.
MESSAGE OF THE HOLY
AND GREAT COUNCIL
OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
To the Orthodox people
and to all people of good will
To God, “the Father of mercies and all comfort,” we address a hymn of thanksgiving and praise for having enabled us to gather during the week of Pentecost (18-26 June 2016) on Crete, where the Apostle Paul and his disciple Titus preached the Gospel in the early years of the life of the Church. We give thanks to the Triune God who was well pleased that in one accord we should bring to a conclusion the work of the Holy and Great Council that was convoked by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch. Bartholomew by the common will of their Beatitudes the Primates of the local Orthodox Autocephalous Churches.
Faithfully following the example of the Apostles and our god-bearing Fathers we have once again studied the Gospel of freedom “for which Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5: 1). The foundation of our theological discussions was the certainty that the Church does not live for herself. She transmits the witness of the Gospel of grace and truth and offers to the whole world the gifts of God: love, peace, justice, reconciliation, the power of the Cross and of the Resurrection and the expectation of eternal life.
1) The key priority of the Council was to proclaim the unity of the Orthodox Church. Founded on the Eucharist and the Apostolic Succession of her Bishops, the existing unity needs to be strengthened and to bear new fruits. The One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church is a divine-human communion, a foretaste and experience of the eschaton within the Holy Eucharist. As a continuous Pentecost, she is a prophetic voice that cannot be silenced, the presence of and witness to the Kingdom of the God of love. The Orthodox Church, faithful to the unanimous Apostolic Tradition and her sacramental experience, is the authentic continuation of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church as confessed in the Creed and confirmed by the teaching of the Church Fathers. Our Church lives out the mystery of the Divine Economy in her sacramental life, with the Holy Eucharist at its center.
The Orthodox Church expresses her unity and catholicity “in Council”. Conciliarity pervades her organization, the way decisions are taken and determines her path. The Orthodox Autocephalous Churches do not constitute a federation of Churches, but the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. Each local Church as she offers the holy Eucharist is the local presence and manifestation of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. In regard to the Orthodox Diaspora in various countries of the world, it was decided to continue with the institution of Episcopal Assemblies until such time as canonical rigor can be implemented. These assemblies are composed of the canonical bishops appointed by each Autocephalous Church and these bishops continue to remain subject to their respective Churches. The due function of these Episcopal Assemblies guarantees respect for the Orthodox principle of conciliarity.
During the deliberations of the Holy and Great Council the importance of the Synaxes of the Primates which had taken place was emphasized and the proposal was made for the Holy and Great Council to become a regular Institution to be convened every seven or ten years.
2) Participating in the Holy Eucharist and praying for the whole world, we must continue the ‘liturgy after the Divine Liturgy’ and give the witness of faith to those near and those far off, in accordance with the Lord’s clear command before His ascension, “And you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth (Ac. 1: 8). The re-evangelization of God’s people in modern, secularized societies and the evangelization of those who have still not come to know Christ remain an unceasing obligation for the Church.
3) In response to her obligation to witness to the truth and her apostolic faith, our Church attaches great importance to dialogue, primarily with non Orthodox Christians. In this way the remainder of the Christian world comes to know more precisely the authenticity of the Orthodox Tradition, the value of patristic teaching and the liturgical life and faith of the Orthodox. The dialogues conducted by the Orthodox Church never imply a compromise in matters of faith.
4) The explosions of fundamentalism observed within various religions represent an expression of morbid religiosity. Sober inter-religious dialogue helps significantly to promote mutual trust, peace and reconciliation. The oil of religious experience must be used to heal wounds and not to rekindle the fire of military conflicts. The Orthodox Church unequivocally condemns the extension of military violence, persecutions, the expulsion and murder of members of religious minorities, forced conversions, the trafficking of refugees, the abductions, torture and abhorrent executions. She denounces the destruction of churches, religious symbols and cultural monuments. Very particularly, she expresses her deep concern about the situation of Christians and of all the persecuted minorities in the Middle East. She calls on the governments in the region to protect the indigenous Orthodox and other Christians and all the populations who have an inalienable right to remain in their countries as citizens with equal rights. Our Council appeals to all parties involved to make systematic efforts without delay to bring to an end the military conflicts in the Middle East and wherever armed hostilities persist and to enable all those displaced to return to their homes.
We address our appeal particularly to those in positions of power to act so that peace and justice may prevail in the countries of origin of the refugees. We urge the civil authorities, the citizens and the Orthodox Christians in the countries in which the persecuted are taking refuge to continue to offer help to the limit or even beyond the limit of their abilities.
5) Modern secularisation seeks the autonomy of man (anthropos) from Christ and from the spiritual influence of the Church, which it arbitrarily identifies with conservatism. Western civilization, however, bears the indelible mark of the diachronic contribution of Christianity. The Church, moreover, highlights the saving significance of Christ, the God-man, and of His Body, as the place and mode of life in freedom.
6) In contrast to the contemporary approach to marriage, the Orthodox Church regards the indissoluble loving relationship of man and woman as “a great mystery… of Christ and the Church”. Similarly, she calls the family which springs from this and which constitutes the only guarantee for the upbringing of children a “little church”.
The Church has always emphasised the value of self-restraint. Christian asceticism, however, differs radically from every dualistic asceticism which severs man from life and from his fellow man. On the contrary, she connects this with the sacramental life of the Church. Self-restraint does not concern only the monastic life. The ascetic ethos is a characteristic of Christian life in all its manifestations.
Apart from the specific topics about which it decided, the Holy and Great Council notes in brief the following important contemporary issues:
7) In regard to the matter of the relations between Christian faith and the natural sciences, the Orthodox Church avoids placing scientific investigation under tutelage and does not adopt a position on every scientific question. She thanks God who gives to scientists the gift of uncovering unknown dimensions of divine creation. The modern development of the natural sciences and of technology is bringing radical changes to our life. It brings significant benefits, such as the facilitation of everyday life, the treatment of serious diseases, easier communications and space exploration, and so on. In spite of this, however, there are many negative consequences such as the manipulation of freedom, the gradual loss of precious traditions, the destruction of the natural environment and the questioning of moral values. Scientific knowledge, however swiftly it may be advancing, does not motivate man’s will, nor does it give answers to serious moral and existential issues and to the search for the meaning of life and of the world. These matters demand a spiritual approach, which the Orthodox Church attempts to provide through a bioethics which is founded on Christian ethics and Patristic teaching. Along with her respect for the freedom of scientific investigation, the Orthodox Church at the same time points out the dangers concealed in certain scientific achievements and emphasises man’s dignity and his divine destiny.
8) It is clear that the present-day ecological crisis is due to spiritual and moral causes. Its roots are connected with greed, avarice and egoism, which lead to the thoughtless use of natural resources, the filling of the atmosphere with damaging pollutants, and to climate change. The Christian response to the problem demands repentance for the abuses, an ascetic frame of mind as an antidote to overconsumption, and at the same time a cultivation of the consciousness that man is a “steward ” and not a possessor of creation. The Church never ceases to emphasise that future generations also have a right to the the natural resources that the Creator has given us. For this reason, the Orthodox Church takes an active part in the various international ecological initiatives and has ordained the 1st September as a day of prayer for the protection of the natural environment.
9) Against the levelling and impersonal standardization that is promoted in so many ways, Orthodoxy proposes respect for the particular characteristics of individuals peoples. It is also opposed the making of the economy into something autonomous from basic human needs and turning it into an end in itself. The progress of mankind is not connected only with an increase in living standards or with economic development at the expense of spiritual values.
10) The Orthodox Church does not involve herself in politics. Her voice remains distinct, but also prophetic, as a beneficial intervention for the sake of man. Human rights today are at the center of politics as a response to the social and political crises and upheavals, and seek to protect the citizen from the arbitrary power of the state. Our Church also adds to this the obligations and responsibilities of the citizens and the need for constant self-criticism on the part of both politicians and citizens for the improvement of society. And above all she emphasises that the Orthodox ideal in respect of man transcends the horizon of established human rights and that ” greatest of all is love”, as Christ revealed and as all the faithful who follow him have experienced. She insists also that a fundamental human right is the protection of religious freedom–namely, freedom of conscience, belief, and religion, including, alone and in community, in private and in public, the right to freedom of worship and practice, the right to manifest one’s religion, as well as the right of religious communities to religious education and to the full function and exercise of their religious duties, without any form of direct or indirect interference by the state.
11) The Orthodox Church addresses herself to young people who seek for a plenitude of life replete with freedom, justice, creativity and also love. She invites them to join themselves consciously with the Church of Him who is Truth and Life. To come, offering to the ecclesial body their vitality, their anxieties, their concerns and their expectations. Young people are not only the future, but also the dynamic and creative present of the Church, both on a local and on a world-wide level.
12) The Holy and Great Council has opened our horizon towards the contemporary diverse and multifarious world. It has emphasised our responsibility in place and in time, ever with the perspective of eternity. The Orthodox Church, preserving intact her Sacramental and Soteriological character, is sensitive to the pain, the distress and the cry for justice and peace of the peoples of the world. She “proclaims day after day the good tidings of His salvation, announcing His glory among the nations and His wonders among all peoples” (Psalm 95).
Let us pray that “the God of all grace, who has called us to his eternal glory in Christ, will, after we have suffered a little, Himself restore, establish, and strengthen and settle us. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5.10-11).
† Bartholomew of Constantinople, Chairman
† Theodoros of Alexandria
† Theophilos of Jerusalem
† Irinej of Serbia
†Daniel of Romania
† Chrysostomos of Cyprus
† Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece
† Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland
† Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and All Albania
† Rastislav of Presov, the Czech Lands and Slovakia
Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
† Leo of Karelia and All Finland
† Stephanos of Tallinn and All Estonia
† Elder Metropolitan John of Pergamon
† Elder Archbishop Demetrios of America
† Augustinos of Germany
† Irenaios of Crete
† Isaiah of Denver
† Alexios of Atlanta
† Iakovos of the Princes’ Islands
† Joseph of Proikonnisos
† Meliton of Philadelphia
† Emmanuel of France
† Nikitas of the Dardanelles
† Nicholas of Detroit
† Gerasimos of San Francisco
† Amphilochios of Kisamos and Selinos
† Amvrosios of Korea
† Maximos of Selyvria
† Amphilochios of Adrianopolis
† Kallistos of Diokleia
† Antony of Hierapolis, Head of the Ukrainian Orthodox in the USA
† Job of Telmessos
† Jean of Charioupolis, Head of the Patriarchal Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of the Russian Tradition in Western Europe
† Gregory of Nyssa, Head of the Carpatho-Russian Orthodox in the USA
Delegation of the Patriarchate of Alexandria
† Gabriel of Leontopolis
† Makarios of Nairobi
† Jonah of Kampala
† Seraphim of Zimbabwe and Angola
† Alexandros of Nigeria
† Theophylaktos of Tripoli
† Sergios of Good Hope
† Athanasios of Cyrene
† Alexios of Carthage
† Ieronymos of Mwanza
† George of Guinea
† Nicholas of Hermopolis
† Dimitrios of Irinopolis
† Damaskinos of Johannesburg and Pretoria
† Narkissos of Accra
† Emmanouel of Ptolemaidos
† Gregorios of Cameroon
† Nicodemos of Memphis
† Meletios of Katanga
† Panteleimon of Brazzaville and Gabon
† Innokentios of Burudi and Rwanda
† Crysostomos of Mozambique
† Neofytos of Nyeri and Mount Kenya
Delegation of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem
† Benedict of Philadelphia
† Aristarchos of Constantine
† Theophylaktos of Jordan
† Nektarios of Anthidon
† Philoumenos of Pella
Delegation of the Church of Serbia
† Jovan of Ohrid and Skopje
† Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral
† Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana
† Vasilije of Sirmium
† Lukijan of Budim
† Longin of Nova Gracanica
† Irinej of Backa
† Hrizostom of Zvornik and Tuzla
† Justin of Zica
† Pahomije of Vranje
† Jovan of Sumadija
† Ignatije of Branicevo
† Fotije of Dalmatia
† Athanasios of Bihac and Petrovac
† Joanikije of Niksic and Budimlje
† Grigorije of Zahumlje and Hercegovina
† Milutin of Valjevo
† Maksim in Western America
† Irinej in Australia and New Zealand
† David of Krusevac
† Jovan of Slavonija
† Andrej in Austria and Switzerland
† Sergije of Frankfurt and in Germany
† Ilarion of Timok
Delegation of the Church of Romania
† Teofan of Iasi, Moldova and Bucovina
† Laurentiu of Sibiu and Transylvania
† Andrei of Vad, Feleac, Cluj, Alba, Crisana and Maramures
† Irineu of Craiova and Oltenia
† Ioan of Timisoara and Banat
† Iosif in Western and Southern Europe
† Serafim in Germany and Central Europe
† Nifon of Targoviste
† Irineu of Alba Iulia
† Ioachim of Roman and Bacau
† Casian of Lower Danube
† Timotei of Arad
† Nicolae in America
† Sofronie of Oradea
† Nicodim of Strehaia and Severin
† Visarion of Tulcea
† Petroniu of Salaj
† Siluan in Hungary
† Siluan in Italy
† Timotei in Spain and Portugal
† Macarie in Northern Europe
† Varlaam Ploiesteanul, Assistant Bishop to the Patriarch
† Emilian Lovisteanul, Assistant Bishop to the Archdiocese of Ramnic
† Ioan Casian of Vicina, Assistant Bishop to the Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of the Americas
Delegation of the Church of Cyprus
† Georgios of Paphos
† Chrysostomos of Kition
† Chrysostomos of Kyrenia
† Athanasios of Limassol
† Neophytos of Morphou
† Vasileios of Constantia and Ammochostos
† Nikiphoros of Kykkos and Tillyria
† Isaias of Tamassos and Oreini
† Barnabas of Tremithousa and Lefkara
† Christophoros of Karpasion
† Nektarios of Arsinoe
† Nikolaos of Amathus
† Epiphanios of Ledra
† Leontios of Chytron
† Porphyrios of Neapolis
† Gregory of Mesaoria
Delegation of the Church of Greece
† Prokopios of Philippi, Neapolis and Thassos
† Chrysostomos of Peristerion
† Germanos of Eleia
† Alexandros of Mantineia and Kynouria
† Ignatios of Arta
† Damaskinos of Didymoteixon, Orestias and Soufli
† Alexios of Nikaia
† Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Aghios Vlasios
† Eusebios of Samos and Ikaria
† Seraphim of Kastoria
† Ignatios of Demetrias and Almyros
† Nicodemos of Kassandreia
† Ephraim of Hydra, Spetses and Aegina
† Theologos of Serres and Nigrita
† Makarios of Sidirokastron
† Anthimos of Alexandroupolis
† Barnabas of Neapolis and Stavroupolis
† Chrysostomos of Messenia
† Athenagoras of Ilion, Acharnon and Petroupoli
† Ioannis of Lagkada, Litis and Rentinis
† Gabriel of New Ionia and Philadelphia
† Chrysostomos of Nikopolis and Preveza
† Theoklitos of Ierissos, Mount Athos and Ardameri
Delegation of the Church of Poland
† Simon of Lodz and Poznan
† Abel of Lublin and Chelm
† Jacob of Bialystok and Gdansk
† George of Siemiatycze
† Paisios of Gorlice
Delegation of the Church of Albania
† Joan of Koritsa
† Demetrios of Argyrokastron
† Nikolla of Apollonia and Fier
† Andon of Elbasan
† Nathaniel of Amantia
† Asti of Bylis
Delegation of the Church of the Czech lands and Slovakia
† Michal of Prague
† Isaiah of Sumperk
† Jeremy of Switzerland, Chief of the Panorthodox Secretariat of the Holy and Great Council