RPTs PROPOSES CONVENING EMERGENCY MEETING BEFORE PAN-ORTHODOX COUNCIL
by Olga Lipich
RIA Novosti, 3 June 2016
The synod of the Russian Orthodox Church (RPTs) suggested calling an "emergency Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference" because of the "extraordinary situation" that has developed during preparation for the Pan-Orthodox Council, which is supposed to be held on Crete (Greece) on 16-26 June, the press secretary of Patriarch of Moscow and all-Rus Kirill, priest Alexander Volkov, told RIA Novosti on Friday, adding that the emergency conference also could be held on Crete.
The RPTs has promised to take into account criticism of the documents of the Pan-Orthodox Council. "Today at the session of the Holy Synod, suggestions were formulated by the Russian Orthodox Church which may serve for resolving existing problems. In the first place, I am talking about the suggestion to conduct an extraordinary Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conference," Volkov said.
It is proposed to convene the conference no later than 10 June. The only possible place for conducting such an emergency conference before the historic council of all 15 local Orthodox churches of the world, which has been in preparation now for more than a half century, is the same island of Crete, the news agency's source said.
He said that Patriarch Kirill and the permanent members of the synod of the RPTs yesterday made the decision to gather for an extraordinary session in order "to formulate a concern that is now occurring in connection with preparation for the Pan-Orthodox Council." "This is the concern of many local Orthodox churches on a whole array of questions connected both with the preparation of documents and with the procedure for conducting the council," Volkov explained.
Thus, on Wednesday, the synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, held in Sophia under the chairmanship of Patriarch Neofit, concluded the impossibility of conducting the council in the announced period of time (from 16 June) because a number of key questions have not been resolved and, in the event of the impossibility of postponing its conduct, it resolved not to send a delegation from the Bulgarian church to the meeting. Previously, criticism of the wording of council documents had been expressed by a number of hierarchs of the Greek, Georgian, and several other local churches, and the Bishops' Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia published an appeal in which it pointed to "serious defects" in these texts.
"The way out of the current emergency situation could be to conduct an extraordinary Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council conference for consideration of the current situation and study of the amendments to the council document proposed by local Orthodox churches, with the aim of working out consensual suggestions. In view of the great volume of work and the importance of the questions raised, convening of such a conference must be done without delay, no later than 10 June of this year, so that on the basis of decisions adopted as its result, Orthodox churches would be able to conduct discussions regarding the possibility of conducting the Pan-Orthodox Council at the scheduled time," the Friday resolution of the synod of the RPTs said.
According to the document, "the decision of the Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church of 1 June 2016 and also the continuing indeterminacy regarding the possibility of the participation of the Antioch patriarchate in the Holy and Great Council, as well as the lack of preliminary consensus on the draft of the rules of the council and the document 'The Sacrament of Marriage and Hindrances Thereto,' mean that at the present time, when two weeks remain before the scheduled date of the opening of the council, serious problems exist, which require joint Orthodox actions without delay."
Patriarch Kirill sent the corresponding suggestions of the RPTs to Patriarch of Constantinople (Ecumenical) Bartholomew, the first on the so-called "diptych of honor" (the traditional list of primates of Orthodox churches of the world). The suggestions also will be immediately sent to all other primates.
During Friday's session, the synod of the RPTs confirmed amendments to the drafts of two documents of the Pan-Orthodox Council: "Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian World" and "The Mission of the Orthodox Church in the Modern World." These amendments were formulated on the basis of judgments expressed by bishops, clergy, monastics, and laity of the Russian church.
In addition, the synod's resolution says that on the basis of the results of discussion of drafts of the documents of the council on the part of the Georgian, Serbian, Bulgarian, and Greek churches, and also the Kinot of the Holy Mount Athos, substantive amendments, in many ways consonant with suggestions of the Russian church, have been presented. "They require thorough consideration, with the goal of finding a general Orthodox consensus," members of the synod noted.
Back in March 2014, the first hierarchs of Orthodox churches established at a meeting that decisions of the Pan-Orthodox Council may be made only on the basis of consensus, the unanimous expression of the will of all generally recognized autocephalous Orthodox churches. Therefore the non-participation in the council of even one of them is "an insurmountable obstacle for conducting the Holy and Great Council," the resolution of the synod of the RPTs emphasizes. (tr. by PDS, posted 4 June 2016)
CONDUCT OF PAN-ORTHODOX COUNCIL, NOT CONVENED IN MORE THAN 1,000 YEARS, CALLED INTO QUESTION
Because of this, the synod of the Russian church proposes conducting emergency conference of all Orthodox churches
Interfax-Religiia, 3 June 2016
Because of a decision by the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to boycott the Pan-Orthodox Council, the Holy Synod of the Moscow patriarchate proposed conducting an extraordinary Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council conference.
"In view of the great volume of work and the importance of the questions raised, convening of such a conference must be done without delay, no later than 10 June of this year, so that on the basis of decisions adopted as its result, Orthodox churches would be able to conduct discussions regarding the possibility of conducting the Pan-Orthodox Council at the scheduled time," the minutes of the synod's session, which was held on Friday in Moscow, say.
Participants in the session declared that the decision of the synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to boycott the Pan-Orthodox Council, as well as uncertainty regarding the possibility of the participation of the Antioch patriarchate in this event and the lack of a consensus regarding rules of the council and separate items of its documents mean that "serious problems exist, which require general Orthodox actions without delay."
The synod pointed out that the nonparticipation in the council of even one of the local churches makes the conduct of the council impossible, and it also declared that a number of churches and monasteries of Athos proposed amendments to drafts of the documents of the council, which are consonant with suggestions of the Russian church and "require comprehensive consideration with the goal of finding general Orthodox consensus."
It became known earlier on Friday that the Bulgarian Orthodox Church adopted a decision to refuse to participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council on the island of Crete on 16-26 June because of "serious reasons" and it called for postponement of its conduct, pointing to the absence from the agenda "of topics especially important for holy Orthodoxy that have critical significance and require timely pan-Orthodox conciliar resolution."
Individual groups in several local Orthodox churches have also expressed criticism of the draft of a document of the council which regulates relations of the Orthodox church with other Christian confessions. These groups perceive "ecumenism" in this document and they insist that in it Catholics and protestants be called, not "churches," but heretics who have apostasized from the Orthodox church as the only and true church.
A pan-Orthodox council has not been convened for more than 1,000 years and it has been in preparation for more than a half century. All decisions at it will have to be made by consensus. Each local church will have a delegation of 24 bishops, but each church will have one vote. The agenda will not include disputed questions, and all drafts of document suggested for adoption at this forum have been published for information at the initiative of the Russian church.
Participants at the council are supposed to adopt documents on the following topics: relations of the Orthodox church with the rest of the Christian world, fasting, marriage, the church's mission in the modern world, and pastoral care of Orthodox in the diaspora.
The future council will not have the status of ecumenical. In distinction from ancient ecumenical councils, it has not been convened to decide questions of a doctrinal nature and it will not introduce innovations in canonical structure or in liturgical life. (tr. by PDS, posted 4 June 2016)
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