Antiochian Orthodox Church will not participate in Pan-Orthodox Council until issues are resolved

Source: Antiochian Patriarchate
(Facebook)

Balamand, June 6, 2016

From the secretariart of the Antiochian
Patriarchate:

During the course of its seventh exceptional session
still open since the 25th of May 2016, the Holy Synod of
the Patriarchate of Antioch held a meeting on the 6th of
June 2016 presided by His Beatitude Patriarch John X and
in the presence of Their Eminencies the Bishops, to study
the positions of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches
related to the Holy and Great Pan-Orthodox Council
(mentioned hereafter as ”The Great Council”)
and the issues listed in its agenda, and in order to
formulate the appropriate Antiochian position in this
respect, taking into consideration the decision of the
Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of May 31, 2016
about “the formation of a committee of
representatives of the Churches of Antioch and Jerusalem,
with the Ecumenical Patriarchate responsible for its
coordination, which would meet immediately after the Great
and Holy Synod”, to work on a solution to the
violation of the Church of Jerusalem of the canonical
jurisdictional boundaries of the Church of Antioch in the
Emirate of Qatar.

After considering the positions of the Orthodox
Autocephalous Churches, the fathers of the Antiochian
Synod realized

1. That the positions of a number of these Churches
concerning most of the issues listed on the agenda of the
Great Synod are still divergent, and that a number of
Churches refuse certain documents as submitted to the
Great Council in their actual form, as mentioned in clear
and explicit decisions taken by their respective holy
synods;

2. That a number of Churches are expressing essential
reservations as to the organizational aspects of the Great
Council as well as its financial costs, and to the way of
applying the agreements reached by the Primates of the
Orthodox Churches in Chambésy, 2016;

3. That the Bulgarian Church issued, on the 1st of June
2016, a synodical decision in which it mentioned its
reservations and asked His All Holiness the Ecumenical
Patriarch to postpone the convening of the Great Council
to a later date while actively continuing its
preparatory works, otherwise it refrains from taking part
in it;

4. That the Church of Russia has taken, on June 3, 2016, a
synodical decision suggesting to convene a conference
preceding the date of the Holy Council in order to study
the unsolved problems and reach a consensus about the
remarks of the Churches on the synodical documents. This
decision also emphasized the respect of the consensus
principle through the participation of all Autocephalous
Churches in this Council;

The fathers of the Holy Antiochian Synod also noticed:

1. That the remarks and reservations of the Antiochian
Church related to the internal regulations of the Great
Council and the decisions taken by the Synaxis of Primates
of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches between January 21
and 28, 2016, which are both documents not signed by the
Antiochian Orthodox Church, have not been taken into
consideration until now, contrary to the observed rules
within the common Orthodox work established by His
Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras I when he
launched the preparation for the Great Council, and which
focuses on the need for unanimous agreement of the
Autocephalous Churches on all the decisions;

2. That the document related to the sacrament of marriage
and its impediments is still listed on the agenda of the
Great Council although it has not been signed by the
Church of Antioch and the Church of Georgia;

3. That the issue of diaspora has been included in the
agenda of the Great Council without any evaluation of the
work of the Episcopal Assemblies, regardless of the
repeated Antiochian call for a special meeting to evaluate
the activity of these assemblies and suggest the
convenient ecclesial solutions before the convention of
the Great Council. These assemblies had been created
“as a transitory step preparing the ground for a
sound canonical solution to the diaspora issue, on
condition of being limited to the period of preparation
for the Great Council which will find a canonical solution
to this matter” (paragraph 1.b. of the text of the
decision related to the Orthodox diaspora taken by
the fourth Orthodox Pre-conciliar Conference,
Chambésy, June 6-12, 2009). Therefore it is
necessary to evaluate the work of these assemblies before
the convening of the Great Council, so that the Council
won’t have to directly address the issue of diaspora
and Episcopal Assemblies without pre-conciliar
preparation;

4. That the issue of the “Church Calendar and
unifying the date of celebrating Pascha” has been
removed from the agenda despite its importance to the
Orthodox flock of the Antiochian See, awaiting from the
universal Orthodox Church a pastoral position in this
respect;

5. That the section related to the evaluation of the
dialogue with other Christians that was supposed to be
drafted sometime soon, before the convening of the Great
Council, in order to be included in the document about
“Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of
the Christian World”, has neither been drafted nor
approved until now;

6. That the content of the document “Autonomy and
the Means by which it is Proclaimed” needs approved
before listing it on the agenda of the Great Council;

7. That the latest pre-conciliar phase was characterized
by the absence of real and effective contribution of the
Orthodox Churches to the preparatory work, by the
secretariat’s slow pace and by the lack of clarity
regarding the schedule and proceedings of the sessions;
posing a possible risk of failure to the synodical
sessions;

8. That the latest decision of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
dated May 31, 2016, suggesting to postpone the solution of
the dispute with the Patriarchate of Jerusalem until after
the Great Council, neglects the initiative of the
Ecumenical Patriarch (5 April 2016) and the Antiochian
response to it, and disregards the depth of the matter and
its effects on the Holy and Great Orthodox Council. The
Holy and Great Orthodox Council cannot take place while
the communion between two Apostolic churches is broken,
given the Eucharistic character of this Council. Issuing
this decision before the convening of the Council leaves
the Antiochian Church the one and only unacceptable choice
of participating in the Great Council without
concelebrating at the Eucharist because of not finding a
solution to the ongoing violation committed by the
Patriarchate of Jerusalem for more than three years (see
the statement of the Antiochian Synod of June 1, 2016
regarding this dispute).

9. That the issue of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem’s
violation has taken on worrying and dangerous dimensions
due to the declarations of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem
in its correspondence with the Patriarchate of Antioch,
that other areas within the canonical jurisdiction of the
Antiochian See belong to the Jerusalem Patriarchate;

And given the fact that the Church of Antioch deployed
considerable efforts to preserve Orthodox unity, and this
is what it assured and reiterated since the launching of
the idea of the Great Council in 1961, and it remained
faithful to the path and approach of Patriarchs Elias IV
and Ignatius IV of thrice blessed memory, who largely
contributed to the progress of the pre-conciliar
conferences for the Great Council. The Church of Antioch
still endeavors, in the person of her Patriarch John X, to
preserve this unity with care, steadfastness and
sacrifice;

And knowing that the Antiochian Church, although it
didn’t sign the decisions of the Synaxis of the
Primates of Autocephalous Orthodox Churches in the Phanar
(March 2014), it took part in the preparatory committees
of the Great Orthodox Council and in the work of the fifth
pre-conciliar conference in Chambésy 2015, and in
the Synaxis of the Primates of the Autocephalous Orthodox
Churches in Chambésy 2016. And although it
didn’t sign any of the latter Synaxis’
decisions, it participated in the work of the preparatory
committees of the Great and Holy Orthodox Council, in
order to facilitate the joint Orthodox work and accompany
it, as it did over the past decades in the hope to solve
all problems before the convening of the Great Council;

The Antiochian Church granted this event, which is the
greatest and most beautiful in the life of the
contemporary Church its deserved place, in making all its
draft documents available in Arabic and accessible to its
flock. The Antiochian Holy Synod also accompanied the
preparatory work for the Council and suggested convenient
amendments to its documents.

From the above mentioned, it appears that the convening of
the Holy and Great Council, which has been being planned
for generations, is jeopardized by a number of
difficulties and it still needs more preparation as to the
issues it will treat, and the practical details related to
its convocation and its proceedings;

The Antiochian Church, in the light of all the
difficulties it is facing and which are considered the
most dramatic in its history and despite the sorrowful
situation of its flock, especially in Syria, Lebanon and
Iraq, didn’t spare any effort, time or prayer for
the sake of facilitating, and for the success of the
endeavors leading to the convention of the Council in
these days and to participate in it, in spite of the human
and economic crisis it experiences;

If the Council convenes whilst two Apostolic Churches are
not in communion with each other, this means that
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;

This Council is convening to express Orthodox unity which
requires an atmosphere of love and brotherhood in Christ
and a much caring for men today which means achieving an
agreement of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches around a
large number of subjects and guaranteeing their
participation in the proceedings of the Council and
unanimously accept its decisions;

Additionally, the Antiochian flock, after learning the
agenda of the Council and its documents, expressed its
great regret that the Council will not deal with the
challenges facing believers, especially the challenges of
the youth. The flock of believers expressed its worry
about this Council drifting away from the original
principles which were behind its convention, i.e. facing
together the challenges of the Orthodox Church in this
time and presenting a common witness to today’s world;

Therefore, the fathers of the Holy Antiochian Synod
unanimously decided the following:

1. To ask His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch to
work on achieving a consensus about the reservations
raised by the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches related to
the Holy and Great Council in the time separating us from
the date of its convention. In case this fails, the
Antiochian Church asks for postponing the convention of
the Great Holy Council to another date, when peaceful
relations between the Autocephalous Churches prevail, and
an Orthodox consensus about the Council’s agenda,
regulations and executive and practical procedures are
guaranteed;

2. The Antiochian Church will not participate in the Holy
and Great Council until the reasons which prevent
participation in the Holy Eucharist during the Council
disappear. That is, by finding a final solution to the
violation of the Patriarchate of Jerusalem of the
canonical jurisdictional boundaries of the Antiochian See,
which led to the breaking of communion with the
Patriarchate of Jerusalem;

3. To re-empahsize the importance of the participation of
all Autocephalous Orthodox Churches in the Holy and Great
Council and that its decisions should be taken in their
presence and approved by them unanimously, according to
the essential principle of a Pan-Orthodox Council and to
preserve the unity of the Orthodox Church.

4. Communicating with all Orthodox Churches and informing
them about the content of the Antiochian position and the
necessities that led to it.

5. Asking the believers to participate along with their
pastors in prayer that the Holy Spirit might inspires the
Church in its journey towards unity, for the sake of its
unified witness for Christ in this world.

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