We wrote previously about the Synaxis of the Primates , at which time the Church was setting the parameters for the discussions to be held between the different Orthodox Patriarchates in Crete this month.
Since then, there has been significant difficulty in reaching agreement on many issues, including the texts of documents to be released representing the unanimous view of the Heirarchs on many doctrinal issues.
Recently, the Church of Bulgaria requested a delay in the date of the Council until its concerns on several issues could be addressed, including seating at the council, the role of observers (including Latins and Protestants) and doctrinal issues. Unfortunately this was not resolved and the Bulgarian Church has withdrawn from the Council.
The Serbian Church likewise has withdrawn from the Council, citing ” deteriorating relations between us and the Patriarchate of Romania, which are now hard to overcome, due to the anti-canonical incursion of the latter into Eastern Serbia and the founding of a parallel diocese there, which will lead to severing of liturgical and canonical communion of the two neighbouring Churches if the behavior described above is not terminated”.
The Patriarchate of Antioch has an ongoing jurisdictional dispute with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem in the Persian Gulf, which is unfortunate. There are reports of the Patriarchate of Antioch withdrawing from the Pan-Orthodox Council but the Patriarchate has yet to release a press release to that effect.
Late in May, the Georgian Church released the discussions of its Holy Synod regarding doctrinal concerns they had with the documents released by the Pan-Orthodox Council secretariat. An English translation can be seen here .
Without going into great detail, the Georgian Church’s position on some issues such as mixed-marriages, relations with the Heterodox, and homosexuality is somewhat more conservative than that espoused in the Council’s documents.
On June 13, Patriarch Ilia II sent a letter to Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, advising that the Georgian Church would not be participating in the Pan-Orthodox Council. The minutes of the Georgian Synod meeting are presented here in Greek.
Representative of the Holy Synod of the Georgian Church, Archbishop Andrew of Gori and Ateni, reportedly was quoted as saying;
“The goal of the convocation of the future Council is to demonstrate Orthodox unity before the world community and to express the common position of the Orthodox Church on the burning problems of today”. However, this goal cannot be achieved for several reasons: the Eucharistic communion between the Churches of Antioch and Jerusalem has not been restored; in addition to the Church of Antioch, the Churches of Bulgaria and Serbia refused to participate in the Council; several documents including “Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian World” contain dogmatic, canonical and terminological inaccuracies and require a serious review; the Church of Antioch did not sign the 2016 Resolution of the Primates of Churches whereby it was decided to convene a Pan-Orthodox Council and she did not sign the Council’s Working Procedure either due to the fact that this document cannot be considered approved; the established Secretariat of the Council has proved to be non-functional since it has not been given the right to make decisions, etc.
After that a discussion took place. As is noted in the official report, “In spite of different opinions, the basic position was manifested in that it is possible to solve the existing problems through active work. Therefore, we together with other Churches also ask to postpone the Council until the general unity is achieved”.
It is to be hoped that all these issues may be resolved promptly and that the long-awaited Great Council of all Patriarchates of the Church may occur soon.