Holy and Great Council

Pentecost 2016

“He called all to unity”

News Bulletin Number 1

Logo of the Holy and Great Council


News Bulletin

English Version
Tuesday, 21 June, 2016
Number 1.


Orthodox Academy of Crete 18-27 June 2016

He divided the nations.
When He distributed the tongues of fire, He called all to UNITY.
And with one voice we glorify the All-Holy Spirit.
(Kontakion of Pentecost)

This Bulletin is designed as a work-tool for the information of the Observers and the accredited members of the Mass Media. The translations into other languages do not have an official character. 

This Bulletin is published on the web-site of the Holy and Great Council: https://www.holycouncil.org/home

Sunday, 19 June 2016. 

The Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church commenced on the Sunday of Pentecost, 19 June 2016, with the Pan-Orthodox concelebration of all the Primates of the participating Orthodox Churches, in the Holy Cathedral Church of St. Minas in Heraklion and, on the following day, Monday 20 June 2016, with the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Holy Spirit, at the Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of Gonias.

Monday 20 June, 2016.

Following the Divine Liturgy for the Feast of the Holy Spirit at the Holy Patriarchal and Stavropegial Monastery of Gonias, the inaugural session of the Council commenced in the neighbouring Orthod0-ox Academy of Crete with the usual prayer under the presidency of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, with the participation of their Beatitudes the Primates of the Orthodox Churches that are taking part in the Council and of their esteemed delegations, as well as of their advisors and ancillary staff.

The Introductory speech of the Ecumenical Patriarch.

His All-Holiness expressed his joy at the eager participation of ten Churches, namely Alexandria, Jerusalem, Serbia, Romania, Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Albania, Czech and Slovakia.  At the same time, however, he expressed his bitter disappointment at the non-participation of four Churches at the Council, even though these, namely the Churches of Antioch, Russia, Bulgaria and Georgia, had co-operated in all stages of preparation of the topics for discussion, with great willingness, and made an important contributions.  Therefore, his disappointment at their absence, for no specific reason, was even greater since two of them had agreed on and signed all of the texts of the Council at the recent Synaxis of the Primates of the most Holy Local Orthodox Churches.  In this spirit, at the conclusion of the deliberations of the Council on 17 June - and with the common consent of all the Primates - an invitation was sent out to the Primates of the non-participating Churches, to participate in the Concelebration of the Sunday of Pentecost, or in that of the Sunday of All Saints (26 June).

His All-Holiness, recalled the special significance and importance of the convocation of the Holy and Great Council for which tireless efforts have been expanded by all the Churches, in order to prepare the topics on the Council’s agenda.  The delay in these preparations was due to the well-known adverse conditions of the 20th century for all of the Churches.  His All-Holiness linked the absolute necessity for the convocation of the Council with the initiatives taken by the Synaxis of Primates for the acceleration of the preparation and convocation of the Council - especially at the meetings in the Phanar (March 2014) and in Chambesy, Geneva (January 2016).  His All-Holiness welcomed with especially warm words the presence of the Observers, namely the representatives from other Christian Churches and Confessions, who have demonstrated great interest in the convocation and work of the Council.

In this context he offered severe criticism of those who, on artificial pretexts and for entirely unfounded reasons, seek to impede the convocation of the Council, accusing the participants of an alleged betrayal of Orthodoxy, as if they were the sole guardians thereof.

Council and Conciliarity.

This Council is not a necessity arising from specific events, but from the conciliar identity of the Church, which exists only in Council.  Opposition to the convocation of the Council, represents a betrayal of the patristic tradition of the Church and a complete personal discrediting of its supporters.  He also underlined, among other things, that conciliarity means the transcendence of individuality for the sake of the spirit of universality.  The origin of conciliarity is the Eucharistic assembly, namely "the coming together ... to celebrate the Eucharist."  And the functioning of conciliarity has been the only means for overcoming problems of all kinds, which the Church had to deal with, both at a local and at a wider level.  The decisions of the Councils (Local, Metropolitan and Patriarchal) were invested with prestige and authority, and those disagreeing with them were cut off from ecclesial communion.

Preparatory Committee and Agenda.

Particular reference was made to the Pan-Orthodox Preparatory Meetings, which over a period of fifty years prepared the Holy and Great Council, which is an authentic expression of conciliar consciousness of the Church.  In addition, new issues have arisen over the last few decades, which demanded a conciliar resolution, such as the relation of the Orthodox Church with the Roman Catholic Church, new issues of an administrative nature, which arose in the now very populous Orthodox Diaspora in countries of the West, the attempts to re-establish Christian unity, known by the conventional title of "ecumenism", as well as new issues of a pastoral nature and bioethical problems, due in the application of new technologies at all levels in the life of modern man.

The Functioning of the Holy and Great Council.

His All-Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, made specific reference to the mode of operation of the Council, in particular to the principle of the unanimity of all the local Orthodox Churches for the texts approved and signed up to now.  This principle is, in no way, binding on the Holy and Great Council for the adoption of amendments, on the condition that they will enjoy common acceptance and unanimity, otherwise the accepted text will prevail.  On the occasion of the Feast of Holy Spirit, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew spoke adverting to the Paraclete and the projection of the unity of the Church in the communion of the sacraments, setting indeed as an aim unity in the sacraments of Baptism, the Eucharist and the Priesthood.  His All-Holiness concluded the opening address of the Council with a heart-felt greeting to the observers and the journalists.

His Beatitude, Patriarch of Alexandria, Theodoros II, in his greeting underlined that the Council of the Orthodox Churches represents a victory for the unity of the Church especially on the day of Pentecost when we pray, Come, O Holy Spirit, and dwell in us and cleanse us from every stain and save our souls. He referred both to the necessity of conciliarity, and also to the possibility of unanimity within this framework.

His Beatitude, Patriarch of Jerusalem, Theophilos, spoke of the unflinching stance of the Orthodox Church of Jerusalem to proceed without any further unjustified delay to the convocation of the Holy and Great Council which had been decided on many decades previously.

His Beatitude, Patriarch of Serbia, Eirinaios, greeted all the participating Churches on behalf of the Serbian flock, emphasising his great joy at the participation of the Serbian Church in the Holy and Great Council, which will prove the unity of Orthodoxy.  He would have wished for the presence of all the Churches, but that “it is a little cloud and will swiftly pass away”.

His Beatitude, Patriarch of Romania, Daniel, greeted with warm words all those present and gave thanks to the grace of God through which the much-awaited Holy and Great Council is taking place today, and praying that the illumination of the Holy Spirit will guide us to unity in Christ.

His Beatitude, Archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostomos, spoke of an exceptional and great event in the history of the Orthodox Church, while he judged that the absence of the four Churches is due essentially to reasons fabricated for public consumption. He praised the Ecumenical Patriarch because during his wise tenure of the Patriarchate, the procedures for the preparation of the Holy and Great Council were expedited so that it could take place today.  He also made note of the great contemporary problems which trouble the Orthodox Church with Nationalism being their main source.  He also expressed positions on the holy diptychs, on the manner of proclaiming Autocephaly and on religious fundamentalism.

His Beatitude, Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, Ieronymos, pointed out that today's feast of the Holy Spirit can be a source of illumination for our communion with God and each other.  The Council that is held today is not merely a copy of earlier forms of conciliarity.  Rather, it is a Council, which without differentiating itself from tradition, attempts to give answers to the problems and issues that modern man is facing.

His Eminence, Archbishop of Warsaw and Poland, Savvas, thanked all the participating Churches for showing a spirit of unity in Christ, and for observing the Canon Law of the Orthodox Church.

His Eminence, Archbishop of Albania, Anastasios, praised the historical and theological integrity of the Homily of the Ecumenical Patriarch, while for the absentee Churches he expressed the wish that they pray for the success of the Council, recalling that during the Chambesy meeting, a proposition was made for Pan-Orthodox Councils to be assembled at regular intervals.  He also stressed that the principle of unanimity - consensus - for decision raised many problems at a Pan-Orthodox level and raised the possibility of introducing the principle of the majority, as was already the case at the First Ecumenical Council.  He also emphasized that we ought to face the one and great heresy, in the same way that all Ecumenical Councils had done in the past, namely the heresy of egocentrism, which is the prime divisive disease.

His Eminence, Archbishop Czech and Slovak, Rastislav, expressed his joy at the convocation of the Council and wished for the grace of the Holy Spirit to illumine the deliberations of the Holy and Great Council.

Afternoon session

During the afternoon session the document “The mission of the Church in the contemporary world” was introduced for discussion. The proposals for amendments to the text made by the delegation of the most holy Church of Greece were read by His Beatitude the Archbishop of Athens and were discussed.  Two of the three amendment proposals were accepted by the Council, while the third one, on the sanctity of the human person, sparked lengthy theological discussions, and as a result remained unchanged.  The session was completed with the proposal of His All-Holiness, President of the Council, to accept the discussed document in principle.

"Temples in the shape of Heaven," concert.

The first day of the deliberations of the Holy and Great Council was completed with a concert at the theater of the Orthodox Academy of Crete (Nopigia), in which sections from the “Axion Estin,”a setting of the poem by Odysseas Elitis and Mikis Thedorakis, were performed by the artists Maria Farantouri, Dimitris Kavakos, and Tatiana Papageorgiou.  The (ΔΕΗ-ΔΕΔΔΗΕ) choir participated in the concert, under the direction of conductor Kostis Konstantaras, while the Cretan dance group, “Omilos Vrakoforon” (Ὅμιλος Βρακοφόρων Κρήτης) also took part.  The concert was honored by the presence of the Primates and Hierarchs of the Orthodox Churches that participate at the Holy and Great Council.