TURKEYJourney begins toward convening of grand pan-Orthodox synod
NAT da Polis
The invitation letters have gone out for the two preparatory meetings that
will be held in June and December. Ten topics of discussion. The ecumenical
patriarchate has been trying to hold a synod of Orthodox Churches since
Istanbul (AsiaNews) - With the sending of letters of invitation to all the
heads of the Orthodox Churches for the two preparatory meetings for the
grand pan-Orthodox synod, scheduled for June and December of this year,
Bartholomew has set in motion the decisions made at the recent pan-Orthodox
meeting in October, held in Constantinople, and attended by deceased
patriarch of Moscow Alexy as his last act in life.
Bartholomew has stepped up the pace for the convening of the grand synod,
which has the objective of responding to all of the problems that have built
up over the course of centuries, and continue to plague relations among the
Orthodox Churches, with extensive repercussions for the dialogue between
Orthodox and Catholics as well. The schism of 1054, with all of its grave
consequences for the universal Church, also deprived the Orthodox Church of
the necessary impetus and ability to be constantly present in the course of
In the recent past, a first initiative for the convening of a pan-Orthodox
synod was undertaken by Patriarch Ioakim III in 1901. He wanted to smooth
over the tensions among the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, in the
conviction that only an Orthodox Church engaged in a constant and
constructive inner dialogue could face the challenges of the contemporary
world and act with one voice and one heart. This initiative did not succeed,
in part because the Orthodox Churches, which had recently emerged from
Ottoman rule, were seeking their identity in an exaggerated identification
with the nation, and the full breadth of the Christian message was not
instilled in their clergy.
After various mishaps, in 1961 a pan-Orthodox conference was convened in
Rhodes, with significant pressure from patriarch Athenagoras, for the
purpose of preparing an Orthodox synod. This conference was also followed by
numerous obstacles, because as theologian Giorgos Tetsetis observes, the
local Churches did not have a clear idea of what they wanted from the Synod.
Now, the letters sent for the two preparatory meetings to be held in June,
in Cyprus, and in December, in a place to be determined, present the
following topics: 1. The Orthodox diaspora, where the jurisdiction over the
Orthodox flock beyond national borders will be defined. According to the
canons now in effect, before the growth in the phenomenon of emigration the
faithful outside of their home country belong to the ecumenical
patriarchate. 2. The manner of recognizing the status of autocephalous
Church. 3. The manner of recognizing the status of Church autonomy. 4.
Dypticha, meaning the rules of mutual canonical recognition among the
Orthodox Churches. 5. Establishing a common calendar for feasts. For
example, some Churches celebrate the Nativity on December 25, others 10 days
later. 6. Impediments and canonicity of the sacrament of matrimony. 7. The
question of fasting in the contemporary world. 8. Relationships with the
other Christian confessions. 9. The ecumenical movement. 10. The
contribution of the Orthodox in affirming the Christian ideals of peace,
fraternity, and freedom.
The first four questions were the cause of friction in 1993 and 1999 with
the patriarch of Moscow, because of participation in the work of the
autonomous Estonian Church, with Moscow does not recognize.
"It is time," says Fr. Tetsetis, a theologian for the ecumenical
patriarchate, "that our Church finally realize that it is doing poorly as a
whole. The Church needs an open and sincere dialogue. Because it is only
then, with its rich tradition as a compass, that it will be able to emerge
from its blind alley and together face its existential problems, which are
becoming increasingly severe and complicated. It is only then that the
importance of the Ecumenical Patriarch's initiative can be understood."
According to the journalist Aris Viketos, the letter from Bartholomew is
being well received in the Orthodox world.