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MOSCOW, June 25. /TASS/. Pan-Orthodox Council that brought together on the Isle of Crete the representatives of ten out of the existing fourteen local (national) Orthodox Churches is about to round up its procedures.
The gathering of top clerics of the Churches, presided over by the Ecumentical Patriarch of Constantinople Barthololmew I, took a whole 55 years to get ready for and was destined to be the Holy and Great All-Orthodox Council but four local Churches the Bulgarian, Antioch (Syrian), Georgian, and Russian decided to stay away from it in the final run, as they disagreed with the procedure promulgated by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and with the texts of the documents proposed for adoption at the Council.
On the last day of the Council's itinerary, its participants will have sessions, while the closing ceremony has been scheduled for the night. A cultural event and a joint dinner will follow the official part of the programme.
On Sunday, the Primates of local Churches are expected to conduct the last joint liturgy on Crete.
The Council has endorsed five of the documents specially drafted for it and put up for signing.
All in all, Moscow Patriarchate proposed about a hundred topics for discussion. The ones that were selected concern fasting, marriage, the methods of declaring autonomy of the Orthodox Churches, the mission of the Church in the world of nowadays, and relations between the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world.
Most negative remarks made in the run-up to the Council concerned the document entitled ‘The Sacrament of Marriage and Barriers to It’, which contains a postulation a dogmatic encroachment on the rules specified by the 5th and 6th Ecumenical Councils prohibiting mixed marriages. This may entail permission for non-Orthodox persons to take part in a sacrament of the Orthodox Church.
The procedure endorsed by the Ecumenical Patriarchate prohibits introduction of any considerable changes in the text of the documents during the Council. Many local Churches forwarded their amendments to the proposed documents but all of them were turned down.
The documents were adopted along the ‘one Church - one vote’ formula. A document becomes authorized only if all the Churches attending the Council sign it.
As regards the non-participating Churches, the status of the adopted documents remains disputable for them. The Russian Church has said it will wait for all the resolutions and will determine their status only after that
If the Councils are held regularly - and that is something the organizers do not rule out - they may eventually get the ‘All-Orthodox’ status and their decisions will be mandatory for all the Churches. The current absence of four Churches representing the majority of the global Orthodox Christian congregation automatically denies this qualification, as it does not represent the entirety of the Orthodox world.