MOSCOW, June 7. /TASS/. Syria’s Antiochian Orthodox Church says it is unprepared to attend the Holy and Great Council, which is going to be held on the island of Crete, Greece, June 17-26 on the terms proposed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, as follows from the statement of the Church published on Tuesday.
The document runs it will be unable to attend "until the reasons, which prevent participating in the Holy Eucharist during the Council, disappear."
"If the Council convenes whilst two apostolic churches are not in communion with each other, this means that the participation in the synodical sessions is possible without taking part in the Holy Eucharist, which deprives the Council of its ecclesiological character and grants it an administrative quality, contradictory to the steadfast Orthodox synodical tradition," it said.
Earlier, the Bulgarian Orthodox Church refused to attend the Council, saying it disagreed with both the documents proposed for adoption and the Council’s rules. Should at least one of the 14 churches be absent from the Council, it will lose the Pan-Orthodox status. 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.
The Holy and Great 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. The autocephalous (local) Orthodox churches are the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, Patriarchate of Alexandria, Patriarchate of Antioch, Patriarchate of Jerusalem, Patriarchate of Moscow, Patriarchate of Serbia, Patriarchate of Romania, Patriarchate of Bulgaria, Patriarchate of Georgia, Church of Cyprus, Church of Greece, Church of Poland, Church of Albania, Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia. The Russian Orthodox Church is largest of all. The latest Holy and Great Council the Russian Orthodox Church agreed to recognize was held in the 8th century.
The Pan-Orthodox Council is convened by the Constantinople Patriarchate in Constantinople (currently Istanbul), the traditional venue of all Councils. This time in view of the strained geopolitical situation in the world the Greek island of Crete was selected as an alternative venue.