Pan-Orthodox Council

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The Pan-Orthodox Council, Kolymvari, Crete, Greece, June 2016

The Pan-Orthodox Council, officially referred to as the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church (Greek: Ἁγία καὶ Μεγάλη Σύνοδος τῆς Ὀρθοδόξου Ἐκκλησίας;[1] also sometimes called the Council of Crete), was a synod of set representative bishops of the universally recognised autocephalous local churches of the Eastern Orthodox Church held in Kolymvari, Crete. The Council sat from 19 to 26 June 2016.


In March 2014, the Primates of local Orthodox Churches convened in Fener, the residence of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, and reached a decision: "The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church will be convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople in 2016, unless something unexpected occurs."[1][2]

In January 2016, at the invitation of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Synaxis of Primates of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches was held at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, Switzerland.[3] The Primates of the local Orthodox Churches and three official delegations representing the Church of Antioch, the Church of Greece, and the Church of Poland, convened to finalise the texts for the Holy and Great Council.[3] Due to the heightened tensions between Russia and Turkey, a decision was reached to hold the Synod in Greece.[4][5]

Agenda, decisions and reception[edit]

The items officially approved at the 2016 Synaxis for referral to and adoption by the Holy and Great Council were:[6][7]

  • The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today's World;
  • The Orthodox Diaspora;
  • Autonomy and the Means by Which it is Proclaimed;
  • The Sacrament of Marriage and its Impediments;
  • The Importance of Fasting and Its Observance Today;
  • Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.

Elizabeth Prodromou, an American professor who was on the team advising Patriarch Bartholomew at the Council, stated that the Council would enable the Orthodox church to express a "robust theology of global engagement".[8]

The Council in Crete approved, with minor amendments, the documents that had been elaborated by all the Churches in the course of their consultations prior to the Synod, and adopted the Message and the Encyclical.[9]

In view of non-attendance by the four Churches, the Synod's official spokesman Archbishop Job Getcha stated that all the documents adopted by the Council in Crete would be binding to all the Orthodox Churches.[10][11]

On 27 June 2016, the Synod of the Church of Antioch issued a statement concerning the Crete Council that stated that the documents adopted by in Crete were not binding for the Patriarchate of Antioch; the Church of Antioch recognized the Synod as "a preliminary gathering on the way to a Pan-Orthodox Council", while the documents it adopted as not final and open for discussion.[12][13]

The Synod of the Russian Church (the Moscow Patriarchate) in July 2016 passed a resolution that designated the Crete Council as "an important event in the history of the synodal process in the Orthodox Church that was begun by the First Pan-Orthodox consultation in Rhodes in 1961", but the Russian Church Synod refused to recognise the Synod as pan-orthodox and the documents thereof as "reflecting pan-orthodox consensus".[14] The Russian Church Synod decided to have the Crete Synod's documents examined for further conclusions.[14][15] In early December 2017, the Bishops′ Council of the ROC approved the previous resolution of the ROC Synod that stated that the ROC did not recognise the Council in Crete as Pan-Orthodox, nor its decisions binding for all the Orthodox Churches.[16]

On 18 November 2016, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople sent a letter to the Archbishop of Athens asking him to admonish some of the Greek Orthodox clergy who reject the Holy and Great Council. According to the document, Patriarch Bartholomew reserved to himself the right to sever ecclesiastical and sacramental communion with those clergymen if Greek ecclesiastical authorities decide not to act on the patriarch's request to discipline them.[17] As Dr. Ines Murzaku, professor of Ecclesiastical History and Founding Chair of the Department of Catholic Studies at Seton Hall University, elaborated in her email interview to Crisis Magazine, such "interference and pressure to excommunicate might sound more as rules/jurisdiction that apply in the West“, and for this reason the Patriarch Bartholomew "might be viewed by many as ‘the Pope of the East’ or ‘Orthodox Pope’”.[18]

However, other Catholic scholars such as Ludwig Hertling, would disagree as he says in his book, Communio: Church and Papacy in Early Christianity, anyone could and did break communion when the parties felt necessary. The most prominent example is the excommunications between Patriarch Michael Kerularios and Cardinal Humbert (a representative of Pope Leo, but not Leo himself) when the latter excommunicated the former. That is still practiced in the Church today. The Patriarch's request for admonishment concerning the clerics in question is not based on their rejection of the Council per se, since others also disagree, but with the manner they conduct their activities as well as their allegations and charges, including that of heresy (both type of actions denounced by the Holy Synods of other autocephalous Churches).

Participants and delegations[edit]

Churches that attended[edit]

Church of Constantinople
Church of Alexandria
  • Patriarch Theodore II (Choreftakis), Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa.[20][21]
  • Metropolitan Elder Petros (Giakoumelos) of Aksum.
  • Metropolitan Elder Gabriel (Raftopulos) of Leontopolis.
  • Metropolitan Makarios (Tillyrides) of Nairobi and All Kenya.
  • Metropolitan Jonah (Lwanga) of Kampala and All Uganda.
  • Metropolitan Seraphim (Iakóvou) of Zimbabwe and Angola
  • Metropolitan Alexandros (Gianniris) of Nigeria.
  • Metropolitan Theophylaktos (Tzoumerkas) of Tripoli.
  • Metropolitan Sergios (Kykkotis) of Good Hope.
  • Metropolitan Athanasios (Kykkotis) of Cyrene.
  • Metropolitan Alexios (Leontaritis) of Carthage.
  • Metropolitan Ieronymos (Muzeeyi) of Mwanza.
  • Metropolitan George (Vladimirou) of Guinea.
  • Metropolitan Nicholas (Antoniou) of Hermopolis.
  • Metropolitan Dimitrios (Zaharengas) of Irinopolis.
  • Metropolitan Damaskinos (Papandreou) of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
  • Metropolitan Narkissos (Gammoh) of Accra.
  • Metropolitan Emmanuel (Kagias) of Ptolemaidos.
  • Metropolitan Gregorios (Stergiou) of Cameroon and Exarch of Central Africa.
  • Metropolitan Nicodemos (Priangellos) of Memphis.
  • Metropolitan Meletios (Kamiloudes) of Katanga.
  • Bishop Panteleimon (Arathymos) of Brazzaville and Gabon.
  • Bishop Innokentios (Biakatonta) of Burudi and Rwanda.
  • Bishop Crysostomos (Karagounis) of Mozambique.
  • Bishop Neofytos (Kongai) of Nyeri and Mount Kenya.
  • Special Consultants:
    • Dr. Panagiotis Tzoumerkas, Professor, University Ecclesiastical Academy of Thessaloniki.
    • Archimandrite Paisios (Larentzakis).
    • Archimandrite Peter (Parginos).
    • Protopresbyter Athenodoros Papaevropiadis.
    • Protopresbyter Joseph Kwame Labi Ayete.
    • Deacon Emmanuel Kamanua.
Church of Jerusalem
  • Patriarch Theophilos (Giannopoulos) III, of Jerusalem.[20]
  • Metropolitan Benedict (Tsekouras) of Philadelphia.
  • Archbishop Aristarchos (Peristeris) of Constantina.
  • Archbishop Theophylaktos (Georgiadis) of Jordan.
  • Archbishop Nektarios (Selalmadzidis) of Anthedon.
  • Archbishop Philoumenos (Machamre) of Pella.
  • Special Consultants:
    • Archimandrite Christophoros (Mousa).
    • Archimandrite Damianos (Panou).
    • Archimandrite Nikodemos (Skrettas).
    • Archimandrite Chrysostomos (Nasis).
    • Archimandrite Ieronymos (Delioglou).
    • Protopresbyter Georgios Dragas.
    • Professor Theodoros Yiangou.[22]
Serbian Orthodox Church
Church of Romania
Church of Cyprus
Church of Greece
Church of Poland
  • Metropolitan Sawa (Hrycuniak) of Warsaw and All Poland.[20][21]
  • Archbishop Szymon (Romańczuk) of Łódź and Poznań.
  • Archbishop Jeremiasz (Anchimiuk) of Wrocław and Szczecin.
  • Archbishop Abel (Popławski) of Lublin and Chełm.
  • Archbishop Jakub (Kostiuczuk) of Białystok and Gdańsk.
  • Bishop Jerzy (Pańkowski) of Siemiatycze.
  • Bishop Paisjusz (Martyniuk) of Gorlice.
  • Special Consultants:
    • Archimandrite Andreas.
    • Archpriest Anatol Szymaniuk.
    • Archpriest Andrzej Kuźma.
    • Archdeacon Paweł Tokajuk.
    • Mr. Jarosław Charkiewicz, journalist.
    • Mr. Jerzy Betlejko, interpreter.
    • Mr. Mikołaj Podolec, interpreter, steward.
Church of Albania
  • Archbishop Anastasios (Yannoulatos) of Tirana, Durrës and All Albania.[20][21][30]
  • Metropolitan Ignatios (Triantis) of Berat, Vlorë and Kanina.
  • Metropolitan Joan (Pellushi) of Koritsa.
  • Metropolitan Demetrios (Ntigkbasanis) of Argyrokastron.
  • Metropolitan Nikolla (Hyka) of Apollonia and Fier.
  • Metropolitan Andon (Merdani) of Elbasan, Shpat and Librazhd.
  • Metropolitan Nathaniel (Stergiou) of Amantia.
  • Bishop Asti (Bakallbashi) of Byllis.
  • Special Consultants:
    • Protopresbyter Jani Trebicka.
    • Father Anastasios Bendo.
    • Nun Rakela Dervishi.
    • Mr. Piro Kondili.
    • Dr. Dion (Vasil) Tushi.
    • Mrs. Sonila Rëmbeci (former member of the Presidency, and of the Central Council of the CEC, 2009-2013).
    • Mr. Orfea Beci (Press Office).
    • Father Charalampos Gkiokas (Staff of the Archbishop).
    • Deacon Spiros Topanxha (Staff of the Archbishop).
Church of Czech Lands and Slovakia

Churches that did not attend[edit]


  1. ^ The delegation of the Church of Russia that had been approved on May 4 had included the following bishops:[38]


  1. ^ a b Message of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches §6: «Ἡ Ἁγία καὶ Μεγάλη Σύνοδος τῆς Ὀρθοδόξου Ἐκκλησίας θά συγκληθῇ ὑπό τοῦ Οἰκουμενικοῦ Πατριάρχου ἐν Κωνσταντινουπόλει ἐν ἔτει 2016, ἐκτός ἀπροόπτου.»
  2. ^ "Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches (Phanar, March 6-9, 2014) Message - Messages - The Ecumenical Patriarchate". Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  3. ^ a b "Photo Galleries - The Ecumenical Patriarchate". Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  4. ^ Last-minute politics overshadow historic pan-Orthodox council Washington Post, 18 Dec 2015.
  5. ^ "ORTHODOXY - RUSSIA Patriarch of Moscow: pan-Orthodox Synod to be held in Crete". Retrieved 19 June 2016.
  6. ^ Council to Address Six Major Themes in Orthodoxy - OFFICIAL ADVANCE DOCUMENTS. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Retrieved: 25 May 2016.
  7. ^ COMMUNIQUÉ. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. 27/01/2016.
  8. ^ Why Orthodox patriarchs are meeting after centuries, The Economist, Jun. 22nd 2016
  9. ^ "Official Documents". The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.
  10. ^ "Pan-Orthodox Council goes ahead without Russians; decisions 'will be binding'".
  11. ^ "Church officials say Orthodox Council decisions will be binding". National Catholic Reporter. June 23, 2016.
  12. ^ "Statement of the Secretariat of the Holy Synod of Antioch, Balamand, 27 June 2016". Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. 1 July 2016. Archived from the original on 5 December 2017. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  13. ^ "Statement of the Secretariat of the Holy Synod of Antioch". The Self-Ruled Antiochan Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. 27 June 2016. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  14. ^ a b ЖУРНАЛЫ заседания Священного Синода от 15 июля 2016 года See ″ЖУРНАЛ № 48″.
  15. ^ "Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church expresses its position on the Council held in Crete". The Russian Orthodox Church. Department for External Church Relations.
  16. ^ Постановления Освященного Архиерейского Собора Русской Православной Церкви (29 ноября ― 2 декабря 2017 года) // §§ 38, 39.
  17. ^ "Admonishment Is Not the Same as Excommunication". Orthodox Christian Network. 2016-12-21. Retrieved 2017-02-14.
  18. ^ "Anti-Catholic Critics Oppose Orthodox Council on Unity - Crisis Magazine". Crisis Magazine. 2017-01-23. Retrieved 2017-02-14.
  19. ^ a b Delegation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Holy and Great Council. The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Retrieved: 4 June 2016.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Churches. ORTHODOXIA. Ostkirchliches Institut Regensburg OKI and Institute for Ecumenical Studies ISO, University of Fribourg. Retrieved: 27 June 2016.
  21. ^ a b c d e f g h Delegations: Holy and Great Council, Pentecost 2016. Official Site - Holy and Great Council. Retrieved: 26 June 2016.
  22. ^ THE PATRIARCHATE’S PARTICIPATION IN THE DELIBERATIONS OF THE GREAT SYNOD OF ORTHODOX CHURCHES – ARRIVAL IN CHANIA Archived 2016-08-15 at the Wayback Machine. The Patriarchate of Jerusalem - Official News Gate. 16/06/2016.
  23. ^ Serbian Orthodox Church refuses to participate in Pan-Orthodox Council. Interfax-Religion. 09 June 2016, 12:37.
  24. ^ Serbian Church changes its decision not to take part in Pan-Orthodox Council. Interfax-Religion. 15 June 2016, 15:52
  25. ^ Serbian Church says will leave forum on Crete if position of those who refused to participate in it is ignored. Interfax-Religion. 15 June 2016, 16:58.
  26. ^ a b (in Greek) Πρώτη Συνεδρία της Ιεράς Συνόδου της Ιεραρχίας της Εκκλησίας της Ελλάδος. ECCLESIA.GR. 8.3.2016.
  27. ^ (in Greek) Δώδεκα Μητροπολίτες παραιτούνται από τη Μεγάλη Σύνοδο των Ορθοδόξων. ΠΡΩΙΝΟΣ ΛΟΓΟΣ. 24 ΜΑΙΟΣ 2016.
  28. ^ (in Greek) H Αντιπροσωπεία της Εκκλησίας της Ελλάδoς στη Μεγάλη Σύνοδο. Greek American News Agency. 31 Μαΐου 2016.
  29. ^ Met. Hierotheos Vlachos. JUST BEFORE THE HOLY AND GREAT COUNCIL. Pravoslavie.Ru (Holy Metropolis of Nafpaktos and Saint Vlassios). June 16, 2016.
  30. ^ Delegacioni i Kishës Orthodhokse Autoqefale të Shqipërisë për Sinodin e Shenjtë dhe të Madh. Orthodox Autocephalous Church of Albania. Enjte, 09 Qershor 2016 17:49.
  31. ^ Metropolitan Rastislav of Czech Lands and Slovakia, on first irenic visit to Constantinople. 17.05.2016.
  32. ^ a b "Amid shrieking family rows, the Christian east strives to find its voice". The Economist. 18 June 2016. Retrieved 18 June 2016.
  33. ^ "Statement of the Secretariat of the Antiochian Holy Synod, on the 6th of June 2016". Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. Archived from the original on 8 November 2017. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  34. ^ "Statement of the Secretariat of the Holy Synod of Antioch, Balamand, 27 June 2016". Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Antioch and All the East. Archived from the original on 10 November 2017. Retrieved 7 November 2017.
  35. ^ Damick, Andrew Stephen; Noble, Samuel (20 June 2016). "The Great Orthodox Council: Antioch Is Different". First Things. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  36. ^ Russian Church insists on rescheduling Pan-Orthodox Council. Interfax-Religion. 13 June 2016, 19:16.
  37. ^ MINUTES OF THE HOLY SYNOD SESSION OF APRIL 16, 2016. The Russian orthodox Church - DECR. 04.05.2016 16:57.
  38. ^ a b c (in Russian) ЖУРНАЛ заседания Священного Синода от 16 апреля 2016 года. 4 мая 2016 г. 13:37.
  39. ^ "Russian delegates walk out of talks with Vatican over dispute with another Orthodox church". World-Wide Religious News. 11 October 2007. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  40. ^ "Position of the Moscow Patriarchate on the problem of primacy in the Universal Church". The Russian Orthodox Church. 26 December 2013. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  41. ^ Lambriniadis, Elpidophoros (2 December 2014). "First without equals: A response to the text on primacy of the Moscow Patriarchate". The Ecumenical Patriarchate. Retrieved 5 January 2017.
  42. ^ Clive Leviev-Sawyer. Bulgarian Orthodox Church withdraws from Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete. The Sofia Globe. June 1, 2016.
  43. ^ "Georgian Church decides not to participate in Pan-Orthodox Council". Interfax-Religion. 10 June 2016. Retrieved 12 August 2016.
  44. ^ "Final Decision of the Church of Georgia on the Council of Crete (SUMMARY)". OrthodoxEthos. 27 December 2016. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  45. ^ "წმიდა სინოდის სხდომის ოქმი". საქართველოს საპატრიარქო (in Georgian). 22 November 2016. Archived from the original on 11 June 2018. Retrieved 4 January 2017.
  46. ^ Holy Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America (6 June 2016). "Holy Synod issues Statement, Petitions on the Holy and Great Council". Orthodox Church in America. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
  47. ^ Mavrick, Nick (13 June 2016). "Over 1,000 Orthodox Scholars Urge the Council to be Held in June 2016". Orthodox Christian Network. Retrieved 30 March 2017.

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