2016-06-15 14:27:00

Patriarch Bartholomew arrives in Crete ahead of pan-Orthodox Council

(Vatican Radio) The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew arrived on the Greek island of Crete on Wednesday ahead of the opening of a historic meeting of Orthodox leaders at the weekend.

The ‘Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church’, as the week long encounter is called, was due to bring together the heads of the 14 Autocephalous, or self-governed, Orthodox Churches to consider some of the most pressing issues facing believers in countries around the world today.

Over the past few weeks, the Bulgarian, Syrian, Georgian, Serbian and Russian Primates have threatened to boycott the meeting over questions they say should be settled before such a Synod can begin. Patriarch Bartholomew, who will preside at the meeting, said he is personally calling the other leaders to remind them of their responsibilities in light of their unanimous decision on the Council’s agenda, taken in Geneva at the end of January.

Cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, will be leading a Catholic delegation, together with representatives of other Christian denominations, to attend the opening Mass on Sunday and the first official session of the Council on Monday.

Yet even the decision to invite ecumenical observers to the opening and closing sessions was a sensitive question and the result of much discussion and compromise among the different Orthodox leaders. That’s according to historian and professor, Nicolas Kazarian, an Orthodox priest and specialist on the impact of religion on international relations.

Professor Kazarian spoke with Nicolas Papachristou about Orthodox Church’s relations with other Christians and about the issues the Council will be considering during this long awaited meeting…


Fr Kazarian says the question of ecumenism is polarised between the more conservative Orthodox Churches and those which are more open to dialougue with other Christians. The Orthodox Church, he says, "has to get into the 21st century and ecumenism is one of the doors" that can lead there.

Professor Kazarian goes on to look at some of the six documents that have been prepared during the Council's lenthy preparatory stages which first started over 50 years ago. Some of these, he says, are clearly related to the life and issues facing believers in today's society, such as the one on marriage and the family....

The document on the practice of fasting, he says, was first drafted when many of the Orthodox countries were under Soviet rule and therefore people were discriminated against if they were seen to be fasting. Today, he says, the geo-political situation has changed and the question is more about how Orthodox believers deal with the problems of consumerism....

The third document Professor Kazarian mentions is the one dedicated to the mission of the Church in today's world. In his view this is a very significant document as it shows for the first time that the Orthodox wish to enter into dialogue, rather than remaining in isolation, and become a key player tackling the social and political problems of the world today....

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