Statement of the Secretariat of the Holy Synod of Antioch, Balamand, 27 June 2016

Source: Antiochian Patriarchate
(Facebook)

July 1, 2016

At the end of the seventh extraordinary session which
begun on May 25th 2016, the Holy Synod of Antioch convened
on June 27, 2016 in Balamand. The Synod was presided by
His Beatitude Patriarch John X, with the participation of
the Bishops of the Holy See of Antioch,

The fathers congratulated their children on the occasion
of the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, the holy, glorious
and all-praised leaders of the Apostles, and the founders
of the Holy See of Antioch. This See is where the
disciples were called Christians first, and where its
children continue to witness for the Risen Christ,
especially in our beloved Antioch, and in Syria the
martyr, in Lebanon the sufferer, in Iraq the injured, and
in all the Gulf countries and the Archdioceses abroad, in
the Americas, Australia and Europe. The fathers recalled
their brother Metropolitan Paul (Yazigi), the Archbishop
of Aleppo who has been kidnapped for more than three
years, amidst willful blindness by all. His Eminence
Metropolitan Paul, along with his brother Metropolitan
Youhanna (Ibrahim), and all those kidnapped constantly
remain present in the prayers and supplications of the
faithful and in the daily Church testimony. The fathers
lift up their prayers for the repose of the souls of all
those martyred because of being called Christian, and ask
their prayers before the Divine Throne, that God may
strengthen His Church and give His children the power and
wisdom to faithfully witness, here and now, Christ Risen
from the dead.

The fathers discussed the issue of the Great Orthodox
Council, which the Orthodox Church has prepared to convene
for more than fifty years. The Antiochian Church had asked
to delay the convocation of this Council, in order to
strengthen the Pan-Orthodox unity, secure Orthodox
unanimity on the debatable issues of its agenda, and that
the ecclesiological conditions open up for the
participation of all the Orthodox Autocephalous
Churches.
Whereas the Antiochian request to delay the Council, along
with the requests of the Russian, Bulgarian, and Georgian
Churches, were not accepted, and whereas it was originally
intended for the Council to be a pan Orthodox Council, but
was convened in the absence of four Autocephalous Churches
representing more than half of the Orthodox faithful in
the world,

Whereas the call to this meeting has ignored the necessity
of establishing Orthodox conciliarity on the basis of
total Eucharistic communion among the Churches, which is
the basis for the formation of this conciliarity,
especially by ignoring to seek a solution to the
Jerusalemite aggression on the canonical jurisdiction of
the See of Antioch before the convocation of the Council,
through a decision made by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to
delay the negotiation till after the Council,

Whereas the statements and declarations issued by the
participants unjustly blamed the absent Churches, and did
not blame the side that was leading the preparatory stage,

And after looking into the statements of the ambiance,
statements, and positions made in the meeting at the
island of Crete, and all the fallacies that circulated
recently, the fathers made the following observations:

First: The fathers affirm that the common
Orthodox work is based on the participation and unanimity
of all the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches. They like to
remind that this principle is not a new Antiochian
position, but is a fixed Orthodox principle established by
the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of Thrice Blessed
memory upon launching the preparatory work for the
Council. He was followed by his successor Patriarch
Dimitrios of Thrice Blessed memory in whose era the
regulations for the preparatory pre-conciliar meetings
were formulated. The articles of these regulations clearly
show that the call for any conciliar work, even if it was
on the level of a preparatory meeting, is done by the
Ecumenical Patriarch, after the approval of all the
Churches’ Primates, and that all decisions are taken
unanimously, by all Autocephalous Churches before they are
submitted to the Great Council.

Second: The fathers recalled that His
Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew had
emphasized as well this principle during the pre-conciliar
preparatory meetings. Particularly, he decided to suspend
the works of the preparatory committee in 1999, because of
the withdrawal of one church from the above-mentioned
meeting. This issue resulted in putting off the
preparatory works for the Great Council for a period of
ten years. The fathers wondered about how could it be that
one church’s absence led to the suspension of the
preparatory work of the Council, while some consider that
it is permissible for the “Great Council” to
convene and meet in the absence of four autocephalous
Orthodox Churches!

Third: The fathers noted that the
principle of unanimity was reaffirmed upon the
re-launching of the preparatory works of the Council in
2009. During the fourth preparatory conference held in
2009, the Antiochian delegation advisor Mr. Albert Laham
of blessed memory emphasized the necessity of this
principle in the process of decision taking, reminding
that if there is no unanimity on one subject, this subject
is deferred to the preparatory committee for further
study, as the Rules of Procedure of Pan-Orthodox
Pre-Council Conferences state. At that time, this proposal
was welcomed by all participating Churches, including the
conference chairman. This proposal had led to taking a
decision about the issue of the Diaspora and the Episcopal
Assemblies.

Fourth: The fathers reiterate that the
Antiochian position calling for building up accord through
assuring the unanimity of all Autocephalous Orthodox
Churches on the subjects of the agenda had as a purpose to
strengthen Orthodox unity in the preparatory phase,
according to the Orthodox tradition. The Church of Antioch
did not expect that this stable principle, which She just
reminded of, would become a controversial issue, and this
stable principle be defied by those who originally
established it and defended it as a guarantee to Orthodox
unity. This unity cannot be achieved if any of the
Churches is excluded from the decision making process, or
if Her proposals are ignored. Here, we would like to
mention the fact that the Synaxis of the Churches’
Primates held in January 2014 has affirmed this principle
when it decided to have all decisions worked during the
Council and the preparatory period to be taken by
consensus. The fathers ask how can this consensus be
achieved with the refusal of the Antiochian Church to the
decisions of the aforementioned synaxis (2014) and the
Chambésy Synaxis (2016)? How could this consensus
be achieved in Crete in the absence of four Orthodox
Churches?

Fifth: The fathers reaffirm that the
Antiochian position requesting the postponement of the
Great Council’s convocation in case of the absence of
unanimity on its subjects was not a new position. The
Antiochian Church has clearly expressed about her position
throughout all preparatory phases of the Council during
the last two years. This position was in accordance with
the role of Antioch had, always refusing to ignore any
Autocephalous Church in the common Orthodox work.
Therefore, all that was published in the media about the
implicit acceptance of the Antiochian Church to
participate in the Council was incorrect, and all the
analysis about the political dimensions of the absence of
Antioch from the Crete meeting remains as a totally false
political analysis. The acceptance of Antioch by economia
to participate in the preparatory works does not mean
concession on Her part about the aforementioned positions.
Rather, Her participation was an effort to remove all
obstacles which was, and still is, preventing the
convocation of the Council.

Sixth: The fathers are surprised by the
positions of some Churches which have recently called to
bypass the principle of unanimity, or interpreting this
principle in a different manner than what state the Rules
of Procedure of Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conferences,
adopted in 1986, signed by all representatives, and used
accordingly even during the fifth preparatory conference
held in October 2015. They are also surprised by all the
positions that were recently declaring that the
convocation of the Council on the specified date is more
important than the conciliarity of the Church and Her
unity. In this regard, the Church of Antioch would like to
thank all the Churches that endorsed her rightful
position, especially the Churches of Russia, Georgia,
Bulgaria, and Serbia.

Seventh: The fathers would like to remind
their brethren meeting in Crete of Article 17 of the Rules
of Procedure of Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conferences
adopted in 1986 which considers that, “In case one
specific subject, discussed during the conference, is not
accepted unanimously, the decision about it is abandoned
and it is deferred to the Secretariat of the pre-conciliar
preparatory meeting for further study and preparation
according to the process known on the Pan-Orthodox
level.” Also, the content of the fourth article of
the same Rules of Procedure states that: “It is not
allowed to remove or add any subject on this list of
subjects which were prepared and agreed upon on the
Pan-Orthodox level, at least till after its study ends.
After that the Great and Holy Council convenes.” The
fathers wonder how could the call to convene the Great
Council be issued before completing the preparatory work
on the subjects of the Agenda: two Churches have
reservations about the document “Marriage and its
Impediments”, and the Antiochian Church’s
refusal to remove three main subjects from the Agenda
(Church Calendar, Diptychs, and Autocephaly and its
Proclamation).

Eighth: The fathers emphasize that facing
the known reality lived by the Orthodox world as a result
of the meeting in Crete, the unanimity of the Orthodox
Churches remains the golden foundation to assure the unity
of the Orthodox world. The fathers consider that this
foundation is, and will remain, the solid basis upon which
the repercussions of the meeting in Crete could be
overcome.

Ninth: As for some of the voices that
have considered the meeting in Crete an Ecumenical Council
held according to the principals of an Ecumenical
Council’s convocation, the fathers would like to
remind those brethren that from the beginning of the
twentieth century, the Orthodox Churches had decided to
substitute the call to an Ecumenical Council with the call
to a Pan-Orthodox Council. The latter’s agenda and
work regulations were established by the meeting held in
Rhodes in 1961. The preparatory work has continued for
almost five and a half decades. The Churches agreed,
because of the extraordinary character of this
Pan-Orthodox Council, that not all bishops in the Orthodox
world be present in it, as the Orthodox tradition
requires, and that all its decisions be taken by the
consensus of all the Autocephalous Churches on the basis
of one vote for each Autocephalous Church. This process
refutes any claim to consider the meeting in Crete an
Ecumenical Council upon which the regulations of the
Ecumenical Council apply. It also obliges its participants
to respect the appropriate Rules of Procedure, in case
they sought to consider it a Pan-Orthodox Council. This
issue was not realized for the abovementioned reasons.

Thus, the fathers of the Holy Synod of Antioch noted that
the meeting in Crete does not even have the required
conditions to convene the pre-conciliar conference for the
Great Council, this according to the Rules of Procedure of
Pan-Orthodox Pre-Council Conferences, adopted in 1986, and
which is still valid to date. These Rules of Procedure
state that the convocation of this conference requires the
approval of the Primates of all the local Orthodox
Churches (Article Two), and that decision taking during it
is done by the unanimity of all the Orthodox Autocephalous
Churches (Article Sixteen), and these conditions were not
available in the meeting in Crete.

The fathers of the Holy Synod unanimously decided the
following:

1. Consider the meeting in Crete as a preliminary meeting
towards the Pan-Orthodox Council, thus to consider its
documents not final, but still open to discussion and
amendment upon the convocation of the Great Panorthodox
Council in the presence and participation of all the
Autocephalous Orthodox Churches.

2. Refuse assigning a conciliar character to any Orthodox
meeting that does not involve all the Orthodox
Autocephalous Churches, and to underline that the
principle of unanimity remains the essential foundation
for the common Orthodox relationships. Thus, the Church of
Antioch refuses that the meeting in Crete be called a
“Great Orthodox Council” or a “Great
Holy Council.”

3. Affirm that whatever was issued in the meeting in
Crete, of decisions and other things, is non-binding, by
any means, to the Patriarchate of Antioch and all the
East.

4. Commission the “Committee for the Follow-Up on
the Council’s Issues” to study the results and
consequences of the meeting in Crete and offer a detailed
report to the Holy Synod of Antioch in its next meeting.

5. Send a letter about the decision of the Holy Synod of
Antioch to all the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches, as
well as to the civil and religious authorities abroad.

6. Call upon the faithful to accompany the fathers of the
Holy Synod of Antioch by praying for the preservation and
the total manifestation of the unity of the Orthodox
Christian witness in today’s world.

NB: The original Arabic text is the only binding text in
case of any misinterpretation

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