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Pan-Orthodox Synod postponed over differences between Churches
NAT da Polis ("AsiaNews," March 3, 2011)

Istanbul, Turkey - Representatives of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox Churches, given the failure to reach an agreement during the last pan-Orthodox meeting last week in Chambesy, on the issues of granting autocephalous status and Dipticha, themes that were outstanding after the penultimate meeting, have suspended all activities emphasizing the latent differences in the Orthodox world.

The final statement, a very laconic and very one signed by the president of the meeting, Metropolitan of Pergamon Ioannis Zizoulas, makes no secret that there are difficulties due to a certain protagonism present in some areas of the Orthodox world. These preparatory meetings began in 2009, wanted by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, in order to prepare the coveted pan-Orthodox synod, which has not taken place since 1054, the year of the schism between Rome and Constantinople. The Synods gather representatives of the 14 autocephalous Orthodox Churches.

Topping the agenda of this last meeting was the completion of discussions on the issue of granting autocephalous status, ie the granting of independence of self-administration of an Orthodox Church. This self-management includes the ability to elect their own bishops and head archbishop of the autocephalous Church. It also had to consider the so-called Dipticha, that the rules of mutual recognition among the canonical Orthodox Churches. According to practice, any decision taken in these meetings must be approved unanimously by the representatives of the 14 autocephalous churches

In fact it was at the final act of the debate on how to seal recognition of the autocephalous nature of a Church by the other Orthodox sister Churches that sparked disagreement between the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Metropolitan of Pergamon Ioannis Zizoulas and the representative of Moscow, Metropolitan Hilarion. Zizoulas proposed signing the recognition granting autocephalous status this way: "The Ecumenical Patriarch affirms, given the will of the other churches, to grant autocephalous status. This is followed by his signature, and then by the signature of the heads of other Churches, preceded by the word "confirm", as an expression of consent, according to the canonical order of mutual recognition. The Moscow representative strongly disagreed with this proposed formula of signing the recognition of autocephalous status, which, according to Hilarion, recognises the supremacy of Constantinople.

At this point we need to provide some background. In the Orthodox world, historically the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem have existed as autocephalous churches, while the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is called the "mother church" because she gave birth to the Churches of Moscow, Bulgaria, Serbia, etc..

This disagreement, therefore, has revealed that two camps have formed in the Orthodox world. That of Constantinople, which draws within its sphere the patriarchates of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Sofia, Belgrade, Churches of Greek language and culture, and the Church of Albania. And that of Moscow, which includes the Patriarchate of Georgia and the Churches of Poland and the Czech Republic, and, surprisingly, the Patriarchate of Romania. The latter has not failed to hide its hegemonic ambitions, especially among the Orthodox Diaspora.

In an attempt to calm the waters, discussion moved on to the issue of the Dipticha, the rules of mutual canonical recognition among the Orthodox Churches. But even in these discussions, disagreements arose between the representatives of some churches, such as those of Cyprus and Georgia. Given that here too it has been impossible to reach an agreement it was decided to postpone further debate until after a closer examination of the issues.

The reaction was one of widespread and deep disappointment among representatives. Particularly that of a high priest of Slavic language (has asked not to reveal his name) who expressed his regret that, "We really cut a very unchristian figure. The time has come for us to regain the lost spirituality of the great Fathers of the church and together re-examine our life, currently characterized by a rampant secularization, which finds its highest expression in the building of luxurious archbishops residences".

Finally, the Reverend Dositheos, head of the press office, speaking to AsiaNews declared: "We need to clarify one thing: that the so-called leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not intended as that of Rome, but rather should be understood as the primacy of charity and as a result of diakonia (service, ed) and non-administrative. It wants to express respect through the diaconate. This element expresses the importance of Constantinople’s diaconate, far removed from any identification of national expression. If the Ecumenical Patriarchate expresses itself through the Greek language and uses tools like Greek thought, this is because it is what happens in the tradition of the great Fathers of the United Church. " The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, concluded rev. Dositheos, has repeatedly pointed out that the Church must get rid of the localisms and provincialisms that afflict it”.


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