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Russian Orthodox Church hopes Patriarchate of Constantinople will show common sense

June 13, 23:13 UTC+3 MOSCOW
Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk said that is the Council is ultimately convened on June 17-26, "it cannot be called All-Orthodox and its decisions cannot be considered binding on all Orthodox churches"
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© Valery Sharifulin / TASS

MOSCOW, June 13. /TASS/. The Russian Orthodox Church hopes the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople will be wise enough to postpone the Pan-Orthodox Council due to convene on the Isle of Crete in less than a week, Archpriest Igor Yakimchuk, the secretary for inter-Orthodox relations of the Moscow Patriarchate’s External Church Relations Department, told TASS on Monday, commenting on the Russian Orthodox Church Holy Synod’s decision not to take part in the Council if several other national churches stay away from it.

"Obviously, it is a very dangerous step to convene the Council in such narrowed format. Such step is fraught with a division in the family of Orthodox churches and, as is known, any division is easy to begin and very hard to be bridged. That is why I would not like to even think that such scenario is possible," he said. "Nevertheless, we hope common sense will win the upper hand in the long run."

He said that is the Council is ultimately convened on June 17-26, "it cannot be called All-Orthodox and its decisions cannot be considered binding on all Orthodox churches."

"Under the Council’s regulations, it is convened by the Patriarchate of Constantinople upon consent from all national churches," he noted. "Obviously, there is no such consent, so there are no conditions for convening the Council. Hence, having weighed the situation, the Russian Orthodox Church has taken this decision, the only possible one in such a situation," he stressed.

After an emergency meeting of the Holy Synod on Monday, the Russian Orthodox Church said it will not take part in the Pan-Orthodox Council, due to convene on the Isle of Crete in less than a week, in case any of the 14 national churches stay away from it.

Postponement of All-Orthodox Council will not hurt Constantinople’s reputation 

Postponement of the Pan-Orthodox Council will not do no damage to the reputation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople but will be a logical and wise solution making it possible to remedy the current awkward situation, deacon Vladimir Vasilik, an Assistant Professor at St. Petersburg State University told TASS on Monday.

He pointed to the poor preparation for the Council. "The Council which was called to consolidate Orthodox believers, to unite them and improve cooperation between them is, as a matter of fact, working to disunite them," he said. "That is why the wisest solution is to postpone it, to duly prepare all necessary documents. Some of the documents should be simply withdrawn and when the issue is prepared to unanimously begin the All-Orthodox Council. Such decision will not harm the Patriarchate of Constantinople, it will do no damage to its reputation. On the contrary, it will give it a possibility to find a way out of this awkward situation it has created."

"But if the Patriarchate of Constantinople and its representatives keep on insisting on convening the Council, they will only demonstrate they are going against the Orthodox world, against the spirit of love and unanimity, against the Orthodox faith," Vasilik said. "Their further tenacity on this issue will work against them."

He said he hopes "Patriarch Bartholomew and his clerics will be wise enough not to be that insistent on holding the unprepared Council as soon as it is going to pieces before our eyes.:

"As a matter of fact, only Constantinople needs this Council to secure its supremacy, to have the Patriarch of Constantinople rule the entire Orthodox world like a kind of an "Eastern Pope," he said. "But I don’t think any of the Orthodox churches will agree to that."

"The Holy Synod’s decision about the Council, i.e. the request to postpone it, looks quite logical, wise and justified," he said. Such decision, in his words, is the wisest one "in the current difficult situation the Patriarchate Constantinople is faced with after the refusal of four national churches to take part in the Council." "We are not boycotting the Council, we are not refusing to take part in it, we are just asking to postpone it," Vasilik underscored.

"This way we are calling on Patriarch Bartholomew, the Patriarchate of Constantinople and those in charge of pre-Council commissions to show common sense," he said, adding that it will help bridge the current differences: "unacceptability of a number of document and wordings for the majority of Orthodox believers." "And not only in our church nut, as a matter of fact, in the entire Orthodox world," he added.

Controversial All-Orthodox Council unlikely to cause split in Orthodox world 

The current situation over the Pan-Orthodox Council due to convene on the Isle of Crete in less than a week can cause no split in the Orthodox world as such a split means the absence of liturgical communication, hieromonk of the Russian Orthodox Church Makariy (Markish), a cleric of the diocese of Ivanovo-Voznesensk, told TASS on Monday.

After an emergency meeting of the Holy Synod on Monday, the Russian Orthodox Church said it will not take part in the Pan-Orthodox Council, due to convene on the Isle of Crete in less than a week, in case any of the 14 national churches stay away from it.

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church was the first to sayg its clerics will not attend the Council, since more preparations were needed. The Bulgarian clerics’ decision to abstain from the conference was followed by announcements on staying away on the part of other Churches - the Church of Antioch (Syria), the Serbian Church and, in the latest move, the Georgian Church. Should at least one of the 14 churches be absent from the Council, it will lose the Pan-Orthodox status and its decisions will not be binding on those absent. The Russian Orthodox Church proposed convening an urgent pan-Orthodox consultative conference before June 10 ahead of the Holy and Great Council. The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on June 6 made a decision to proceed with routine preparations for the Council, due in Crete on June 17-26.

"A split is out of the question as a split means the loss of unity of liturgical communication, it is a situation when one Orthodox church stops to recognize others, when people do not serve liturgies together," he said. "Differences between churches do exist, first of all, the issue of the calendar. One church celebrates Christmas on December 25, another one - on January 7, but we never call it a split. We serve liturgies together."

"The situation over the Pan-Orthodox Council, frankly speaking, is not a matter of top priority. Let us say, it is of secondary importance as compared with the real internal and external situation," he said. "It would be good if this All-Orthodox Council is convened but we will lose little if it is not.".

Problems sprang up in the course of final preparations for the assembly recently, with the Bulgarian Orthodox Church saying its clerics will not attend the Council, since more preparations were needed. The Bulgarian clerics’ decision to abstain from the conference was followed by announcements on staying away on the part of other Churches - the Church of Antioch (Syria), the Serbian Church and, in the latest move, the Georgian Church. Should at least one of the 14 churches be absent from the Council, it will lose the Pan-Orthodox status and its decisions will not be binding on those absent. The Russian Orthodox Church proposed convening an urgent pan-Orthodox consultative conference before June 10 ahead of the Holy and Great Council. The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on June 6 made a decision to proceed with routine preparations for the Council, due in Crete on June 17-26.

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