Istanbul, Turkey, Jun 16, 2016 / 05:02 am
While the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople maintains the “pan-Orthodox Council” scheduled to begin on Sunday will take place, the gathering is in disarray after four Eastern Orthodox Churches announced they would not be taking part.
The Holy and and Great Council, as it is officially known, was meant to gather the bishops of the 14 autocephalous Eastern Orthodox Churches to discuss the mission of Orthodoxy in today's world; the Orthodox diaspora; ecclesial autonomy; the importance of fasting; the relations of Orthodoxy with the rest of Christianity; and the sacrament of marriage.
It is scheduled to be held in Crete beginning June 19 – Pentecost in the Julian calendar – and ending June 26.
But in recent weeks, four of the Churches – the Russian, Georgian, Bulgarian, and Antiochian Orthodox Churches – have announced they will not take part in the council. A fifth, the Serbian Orthodox Church, had made such an announcement, but decided June 15 that it would, in fact, participate.
Each of the Churchs has given its own reasons for defecting from the council, but they focus on the wording of preparatory documents issues of jurisdiction.
The Patriarchate of Antioch has broken communion with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem, because the latter appointed a metropolitan bishop in Qatar, which Antioch claims as part of its terrority. Moreover, it had failed to sign the preparatory document on the sacrament of marriage and its impediments.
The Bulgarian Orthodox Church withdrew June 3 because it is highly critical of several passages of the preparatory document on the relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world. The Bulgarian patriarchate maintains that the ecumenical document errs theologically because it acknowledges that there are other Christian Churches – not merely confessions – which are not in communion with Orthodoxy.
The Patriarchate of Georgia followed suit with the Bulgarians, and also objected to the preparatory document on marriage.