Message of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church

Source: Holy and Great Council

June 26, 2016

MESSAGE
OF THE HOLY AND GREAT COUNCIL
OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH

To the Orthodox people
and to all people of good will

To God, “the Father of mercies and all comfort,”
we address a hymn of thanksgiving and praise for having
enabled us to gather during the week of Pentecost (18-26
June 2016) on Crete, where the Apostle Paul and his
disciple Titus preached the Gospel in the early years of
the life of the Church. We give thanks to the Triune God
who was well pleased that in one accord we should bring to
a conclusion the work of the Holy and Great Council that
was convoked by His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch.
Bartholomew by the common will of their Beatitudes the
Primates of the local Orthodox Autocephalous Churches.

Faithfully following the example of the Apostles and our
God-bearing Fathers we have once again studied the Gospel
of freedom “for which Christ has set us free”
(Gal. 5: 1). The foundation of our theological discussions
was the certainty that the Church does not live for
herself. She transmits the witness of the Gospel of grace
and truth and offers to the whole world the gifts of God:
love, peace, justice, reconciliation, the power of the
Cross and of the Resurrection and the expectation of
eternal life.

1) The key priority of the Council was to
proclaim the unity of the Orthodox
Church. Founded on the Eucharist and the Apostolic
Succession of her Bishops, the existing unity needs to be
strengthened and to bear new fruits. The One Holy Catholic
and Apostolic Church is a divine-human communion, a
foretaste and experience of the eschaton within
the Holy Eucharist. As a continuous Pentecost, she is a
prophetic voice that cannot be silenced, the presence of
and witness to the Kingdom of the God of love. The
Orthodox Church, faithful to the unanimous Apostolic
Tradition and her sacramental experience, is the authentic
continuation of the one Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church
as confessed in the Creed and confirmed by the teaching of
the Church Fathers. Our Church lives out the mystery of
the Divine Economy in her sacramental life, with the Holy
Eucharist at its center.

The Orthodox Church expresses her unity and catholicity
“in Council”. Conciliarity pervades her
organization, the way decisions are taken and determines
her path. The Orthodox Autocephalous Churches do not
constitute a federation of Churches, but the One Holy
Catholic and Apostolic Church. Each local Church as she
offers the holy Eucharist is the local presence and
manifestation of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic
Church. In regard to the Orthodox Diaspora in various
countries of the world, it was decided to continue with
the institution of Episcopal Assemblies until such time as
canonical rigor can be implemented. These assemblies are
composed of the canonical bishops appointed by each
Autocephalous Church and these bishops continue to remain
subject to their respective Churches. The due function of
these Episcopal Assemblies guarantees respect for the
Orthodox principle of conciliarity.

During the deliberations of the Holy and Great Council the
importance of the Synaxes of the Primates which had taken
place was emphasized and the proposal was made for the
Holy and Great Council to become a regular Institution to
be convened every seven or ten years.

2) Participating in the Holy Eucharist
and praying for the whole world, we must continue the
‘liturgy after the Divine Liturgy’ and give the
witness of faith to those near and those
far off, in accordance with the Lord’s clear command
before His ascension, “And you shall be my witnesses
in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end
of the earth (Ac. 1: 8). The re-evangelization of
God’s people in modern, secularized societies and the
evangelization of those who have still not come to know
Christ remain an unceasing obligation for the Church.

3) In response to her obligation to
witness to the truth and her apostolic faith, our Church
attaches great importance to dialogue,
primarily with non-Orthodox Christians. In this way the
remainder of the Christian world comes to know more
precisely the authenticity of the Orthodox Tradition, the
value of patristic teaching and the liturgical life and
faith of the Orthodox. The dialogues conducted by the
Orthodox Church never imply a compromise in matters of
faith.

4) The explosions of fundamentalism
observed within various religions represent an expression
of morbid religiosity. Sober inter-religious
dialogue
helps significantly to promote mutual
trust, peace and reconciliation. The oil of religious
experience must be used to heal wounds and not to rekindle
the fire of military conflicts. The Orthodox Church
unequivocally condemns the extension of military violence,
persecutions, the expulsion and murder of members of
religious minorities, forced conversions, the trafficking
of refugees, the abductions, torture and abhorrent
executions. She denounces the destruction of churches,
religious symbols and cultural monuments. Very
particularly, she expresses her deep concern about the
situation of Christians and of all the persecuted
minorities in the Middle East. She calls on the
governments in the region to protect the indigenous
Orthodox and other Christians and all the populations who
have an inalienable right to remain in their countries as
citizens with equal rights. Our Council appeals to all
parties involved to make systematic efforts without delay
to bring to an end the military conflicts in the Middle
East and wherever armed hostilities persist and to enable
all those displaced to return to their homes.

We address our appeal particularly to those in positions
of power to act so that peace and justice may prevail in
the countries of origin of the refugees. We urge the civil
authorities, the citizens and the Orthodox Christians in
the countries in which the persecuted are taking refuge to
continue to offer help to the limit or even beyond the
limit of their abilities.

5) Modern secularisation seeks the
autonomy of man (anthropos) from Christ and from
the spiritual influence of the Church, which it
arbitrarily identifies with conservatism. Western
civilization, however, bears the indelible mark of the
diachronic contribution of Christianity. The Church,
moreover, highlights the saving significance of Christ,
the God-man, and of His Body, as the place and mode of
life in freedom.

6) In contrast to the contemporary
approach to marriage, the Orthodox Church
regards the indissoluble loving relationship of man and
woman as “a great mystery… of Christ and the
Church”. Similarly, she calls the family which
springs from this and which constitutes the only guarantee
for the upbringing of children a “little
church”.

The Church has always emphasised the value of
self-restraint. Christian asceticism,
however, differs radically from every dualistic asceticism
which severs man from life and from his fellow man. On the
contrary, she connects this with the sacramental life of
the Church. Self-restraint does not concern only the
monastic life. The ascetic ethos is a
characteristic of Christian life in all its
manifestations.

* * *

Apart from the specific topics about which it decided, the
Holy and Great Council notes in brief the following
important contemporary issues:

7) In regard to the matter of the
relations between Christian faith and the natural
sciences, the Orthodox Church avoids placing scientific
investigation under tutelage and does not adopt a position
on every scientific question. She thanks God who gives to
scientists the gift of uncovering unknown dimensions of
divine creation. The modern development of the
natural sciences and of technology is
bringing radical changes to our life. It brings
significant benefits, such as the facilitation of everyday
life, the treatment of serious diseases, easier
communications and space exploration, and so on. In spite
of this, however, there are many negative consequences
such as the manipulation of freedom, the gradual loss of
precious traditions, the destruction of the natural
environment and the questioning of moral values.
Scientific knowledge, however swiftly it may be advancing,
does not motivate man’s will, nor does it give answers
to serious moral and existential issues and to the search
for the meaning of life and of the world. These matters
demand a spiritual approach, which the Orthodox Church
attempts to provide through a bioethics which is founded
on Christian ethics and Patristic teaching. Along with her
respect for the freedom of scientific investigation, the
Orthodox Church at the same time points out the dangers
concealed in certain scientific achievements and
emphasises man’s dignity and his divine destiny.

8) It is clear that the present-day
ecological crisis is due to spiritual and
moral causes. Its roots are connected with greed, avarice
and egoism, which lead to the thoughtless use of natural
resources, the filling of the atmosphere with damaging
pollutants, and to climate change. The Christian response
to the problem demands repentance for the abuses, an
ascetic frame of mind as an antidote to overconsumption,
and at the same time a cultivation of the consciousness
that man is a “steward ” and not a possessor of
creation. The Church never ceases to emphasise that future
generations also have a right to the the natural resources
that the Creator has given us. For this reason, the
Orthodox Church takes an active part in the various
international ecological initiatives and has ordained the
1st of September as a day of prayer for the protection of
the natural environment.

9) Against the levelling and impersonal
standardization that is promoted in so many ways,
Orthodoxy proposes respect for the particular
characteristics
of individuals peoples. It is
also opposed the making of the economy into something
autonomous from basic human needs and turning it into an
end in itself. The progress of mankind is not connected
only with an increase in living standards or with economic
development at the expense of spiritual values.

10) The Orthodox Church does not involve
herself in politics. Her voice remains distinct, but also
prophetic, as a beneficial intervention for the sake of
man. Human rights today are at the center of politics as a
response to the social and political crises and upheavals,
and seek to protect the citizen from the arbitrary power
of the state. Our Church also adds to this the obligations
and responsibilities of the citizens and the need for
constant self-criticism on the part of both politicians
and citizens for the improvement of society. And above all
she emphasises that the Orthodox ideal in
respect of man transcends the horizon of established human
rights and that ” greatest of all is love”, as
Christ revealed and as all the faithful who follow him
have experienced. She insists also that a fundamental
human right is the protection of religious
freedom–namely, freedom of conscience, belief, and
religion, including, alone and in community, in private
and in public, the right to freedom of worship and
practice, the right to manifest one’s religion, as
well as the right of religious communities to religious
education and to the full function and exercise of their
religious duties, without any form of direct or indirect
interference by the state.

11) The Orthodox Church addresses herself
to young people who seek for a plenitude
of life replete with freedom, justice, creativity and also
love. She invites them to join themselves consciously with
the Church of Him who is Truth and Life. To come, offering
to the ecclesial body their vitality, their anxieties,
their concerns and their expectations. Young people are
not only the future, but also the dynamic and creative
present of the Church, both on a local and on a world-wide
level.

12) The Holy and Great Council has
opened our horizon towards the
contemporary diverse and multifarious world. It has
emphasised our responsibility in place and in time, ever
with the perspective of eternity. The Orthodox Church,
preserving intact her Sacramental and Soteriological
character, is sensitive to the pain, the distress and the
cry for justice and peace of the peoples of the world. She
“proclaims day after day the good tidings of His
salvation, announcing His glory among the nations and His
wonders among all peoples” (Psalm 95).

Let us pray that “the God of all grace, who has
called us to his eternal glory in Christ, will, after we
have suffered a little, Himself restore, establish, and
strengthen and settle us. To him be glory and dominion for
ever and ever. Amen” (1 Peter 5.10-11).

† Bartholomew of Constantinople, Chairman

† Theodoros of Alexandria

† Theophilos of Jerusalem

† Irinej of Serbia

†Daniel of Romania

† Chrysostomos of Cyprus

† Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece

† Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland

† Anastasios of Tirana, Durres and All Albania

† Rastislav of Presov, the Czech Lands and Slovakia

Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

† Leo of Karelia and All Finland

† Stephanos of Tallinn and All Estonia

† Elder Metropolitan John of Pergamon

† Elder Archbishop Demetrios of America

† Augustinos of Germany

† Irenaios of Crete

† Isaiah of Denver

† Alexios of Atlanta

† Iakovos of the Princes’ Islands

† Joseph of Proikonnisos

† Meliton of Philadelphia

† Emmanuel of France

† Nikitas of the Dardanelles

† Nicholas of Detroit

† Gerasimos of San Francisco

† Amphilochios of Kisamos and Selinos

† Amvrosios of Korea

† Maximos of Selyvria

† Amphilochios of Adrianopolis

† Kallistos of Diokleia

† Antony of Hierapolis, Head of the Ukrainian
Orthodox in the USA

† Job of Telmessos

† Jean of Charioupolis, Head of the Patriarchal
Exarchate for Orthodox Parishes of the Russian Tradition
in Western Europe

† Gregory of Nyssa, Head of the Carpatho-Russian
Orthodox in the USA

Delegation of the Patriarchate of
Alexandria

† Gabriel of Leontopolis

† Makarios of Nairobi

† Jonah of Kampala

† Seraphim of Zimbabwe and Angola

† Alexandros of Nigeria

† Theophylaktos of Tripoli

† Sergios of Good Hope

† Athanasios of Cyrene

† Alexios of Carthage

† Ieronymos of Mwanza

† George of Guinea

† Nicholas of Hermopolis

† Dimitrios of Irinopolis

† Damaskinos of Johannesburg and Pretoria

† Narkissos of Accra

† Emmanouel of Ptolemaidos

† Gregorios of Cameroon

† Nicodemos of Memphis

† Meletios of Katanga

† Panteleimon of Brazzaville and Gabon

† Innokentios of Burudi and Rwanda

† Crysostomos of Mozambique

† Neofytos of Nyeri and Mount Kenya

Delegation of the Patriarchate of
Jerusalem

† Benedict of Philadelphia

† Aristarchos of Constantine

† Theophylaktos of Jordan

† Nektarios of Anthidon

† Philoumenos of Pella

Delegation of the Church of Serbia

† Jovan of Ohrid and Skopje

† Amfilohije of Montenegro and the Littoral

† Porfirije of Zagreb and Ljubljana

† Vasilije of Sirmium

† Lukijan of Budim

† Longin of Nova Gracanica

† Irinej of Backa

† Hrizostom of Zvornik and Tuzla

† Justin of Zica

† Pahomije of Vranje

† Jovan of Sumadija

† Ignatije of Branicevo

† Fotije of Dalmatia

† Athanasios of Bihac and Petrovac

† Joanikije of Niksic and Budimlje

† Grigorije of Zahumlje and Hercegovina

† Milutin of Valjevo

† Maksim in Western America

† Irinej in Australia and New Zealand

† David of Krusevac

† Jovan of Slavonija

† Andrej in Austria and Switzerland

† Sergije of Frankfurt and in Germany

† Ilarion of Timok

Delegation of the Church of Romania

† Teofan of Iasi, Moldova and Bucovina

† Laurentiu of Sibiu and Transylvania

† Andrei of Vad, Feleac, Cluj, Alba, Crisana and
Maramures

† Irineu of Craiova and Oltenia

† Ioan of Timisoara and Banat

† Iosif in Western and Southern Europe

† Serafim in Germany and Central Europe

† Nifon of Targoviste

† Irineu of Alba Iulia

† Ioachim of Roman and Bacau

† Casian of Lower Danube

† Timotei of Arad

† Nicolae in America

† Sofronie of Oradea

† Nicodim of Strehaia and Severin

† Visarion of Tulcea

† Petroniu of Salaj

† Siluan in Hungary

† Siluan in Italy

† Timotei in Spain and Portugal

† Macarie in Northern Europe

† Varlaam Ploiesteanul, Assistant Bishop to the
Patriarch

† Emilian Lovisteanul, Assistant Bishop to the
Archdiocese of Ramnic

† Ioan Casian of Vicina, Assistant Bishop to the
Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese of the Americas

Delegation of the Church of Cyprus

† Georgios of Paphos

† Chrysostomos of Kition

† Chrysostomos of Kyrenia

† Athanasios of Limassol

† Neophytos of Morphou

† Vasileios of Constantia and Ammochostos

† Nikiphoros of Kykkos and Tillyria

† Isaias of Tamassos and Oreini

† Barnabas of Tremithousa and Lefkara

† Christophoros of Karpasion

† Nektarios of Arsinoe

† Nikolaos of Amathus

† Epiphanios of Ledra

† Leontios of Chytron

† Porphyrios of Neapolis

† Gregory of Mesaoria

Delegation of the Church of Greece

† Prokopios of Philippi, Neapolis and Thassos

† Chrysostomos of Peristerion

† Germanos of Eleia

† Alexandros of Mantineia and Kynouria

† Ignatios of Arta

† Damaskinos of Didymoteixon, Orestias and Soufli

† Alexios of Nikaia

† Hierotheos of Nafpaktos and Aghios Vlasios

† Eusebios of Samos and Ikaria

† Seraphim of Kastoria

† Ignatios of Demetrias and Almyros

† Nicodemos of Kassandreia

† Ephraim of Hydra, Spetses and Aegina

† Theologos of Serres and Nigrita

† Makarios of Sidirokastron

† Anthimos of Alexandroupolis

† Barnabas of Neapolis and Stavroupolis

† Chrysostomos of Messenia

† Athenagoras of Ilion, Acharnon and Petroupoli

† Ioannis of Lagkada, Litis and Rentinis

† Gabriel of New Ionia and Philadelphia

† Chrysostomos of Nikopolis and Preveza

† Theoklitos of Ierissos, Mount Athos and Ardameri

Delegation of the Church of Poland

† Simon of Lodz and Poznan

† Abel of Lublin and Chelm

† Jacob of Bialystok and Gdansk

† George of Siemiatycze

† Paisios of Gorlice

Delegation of the Church of Albania

† Joan of Koritsa

† Demetrios of Argyrokastron

† Nikolla of Apollonia and Fier

† Andon of Elbasan

† Nathaniel of Amantia

† Asti of Bylis

Delegation of the Church of the Czech lands and
Slovakia

† Michal of Prague

† Isaiah of Sumperk

† Jeremy of Switzerland, Chief of the Panorthodox
Secretariat of the Holy and Great Council

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