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Russian cleric accuses Constantinople Patriarchate of destroying pan-Orthodox unity

June 07, 2016, 8:43 UTC+3 MOSCOW

According to the cleric, the pan-Orthodox conference seems impossible to convene in view of the Constantinople Patriarchate's refusal to revise the dates of the Holy and Great All-Orthodox Council

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© Vladimir Smirnov/TASS

MOSCOW, June 7. /TASS/. Refusal of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to hold an emergency pan-Orthodox conference for removal of contradictions regarding the documents prepared for the forthcoming Holy and Great All-Orthodox Council, which is scheduled for June 19-26, destroys the unity of the Orthodox Christian world, the Reverend Andrey Novikov, the father superior Moscow’s Holy Trinity Church on Sparrow Hills told TASS.

The Rev Novikov, who is a member of the Biblical and Theological Commission of the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church, said the Bulgarian Orthodox Church that had announced its plans to stay away from the Council was not the only national (local) division of Eastern Orthodoxy where draft guideline documents prepared for the Council raised objections.

"The bishops, monks and laymen in different Churches are voicing very serious claims against the documents," the Rev Novikov said adding that objections had been voiced in the Church of Greece, Church of Antioch and the Russian Church.

When the Moscow Patriarchate proposed to convene a pre-Council emergency conference, it merely recommended taking account of the wishes of all the national Church delegations supposed to attend the gathering on the Isle of Crete, he interviewee said.

Following the announcement by the Bulgarian Church of its plans to stay away from the Council over disagreement with provisions of a draft document on Christian unity, the Moscow Patriarchate proposed to convene a pan-Orthodox emergency consultative conference where the controversies could be dispelled. The proposals said the convocation was needed much before June 10.

However, on Monday the Chief Secretariat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate issued communique saying the dates of the Council could not be revised - something that the Bulgarian Church suggested to allow more time for better preparations - and the institutional framework of the procedures already underway would not be altered.

In the meantime, decision by at least one of the national Churches to abstain makes the Council devoid of the status of the All-Orthodox one.

"I’m really astonished by the position of the Constantinople Patriarchate," the Rev Novikov said. "I’m afraid this decision calls into the question the convocation of the Council as such."

"There’s a feeling, which exists not only in the Russian Orthodox Church, that what we can see now is a manifestation of the so-called eastern papacy," he said. "Constantinople Patriarchate views the Council as an instrument for raising its own prestige, as a pretext for claiming some kind of special powers over the Orthodox world."

"The stance of the Constantinople Patriarchate on ecumenism, on the twisting of the canonical boundaries of the Church is not only pegged to the current situation but it also displays a bizarre mission, which this Patriarchate is trying to fulfill within the Orthodox Church and is destroying it in this way," the Rev Novikov said.

"In fact, we could convene a Council that would respond to the pressing problems the Eastern Orthodox Church is faced with, would show the Church unity, would be verified from the dogmatic point of view, and would match the spirit of the Ecumenical Council (of the 1st millennium AD TASS) or the authoritative Local Councils of each Church," he said.

"The Constantinople Patriarchate is seeking to superimpose its authority on the entire Orthodox world but this authority doesn’t exist in practical terms," the Rev Novikov said. "It is craving something bigger that a rather conventional superiority of rank but the superiority of administrative powers."

"I’m afraid this tough dictatorial position means at attempt to impose its opinion on others and to enjoy unlimited power in the Orthodox world," he said.

The Holy and Great All-Orthodox Council, preparations for which started as far back as in 1961, is supposed to become the fullest and most authoritative assembly of top clerics of the Orthodox Christian world in almost a thousand years. Each of the fourteen national (local) Orthodox Churches is expected to delegate 24 high-rank representatives there.

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