Wednesday, March 04, 2015

First Eastern Orthodox Council in Centuries will Omit Rome

Hagia Irene in Istanbul, to be the site of the first Eastern Orthodox council in centuries
Hagia Irene in Istanbul, to be the site of
the first Eastern Orthodox council in centuries
The first Eastern Orthodox Council in centuries is planned for 2016.
A Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church has been scheduled for 2016. …

The council of 2016, which has been on the table for discussion and preparation since at least 1961 (although there were earlier proposals for such a council in the 1920s and 1930s), will for the first time ever gather representatives from all fourteen independent Orthodox Churches. The very conception, let alone the convocation of such a great or general council, is entirely unprecedented. It will be attended by patriarchs, archbishops, and bishops from the fourteen autocephalous Orthodox Churches, including those from all of the ancient patriarchates, with the exception of Rome.

... the convocation of a Great Council in 2016 [is] tentatively planned to be held in the Church of Haghia Irene—the site of the second ecumenical council of 381, which completed the “creed” recited by most Christians today. Haghia Irene is now a museum in Istanbul, never having been converted into a mosque since the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

“Autocephalous” churches are kind of like the “denominational structures” or bureaucracies within Orthodoxy, although they are based on geographic differences rather than doctrinal differences.

Keep in mind that Rome was one of the five “Patriarchates” that evolved during the fifth and sixth centuries. (EOs would consider that Rome was “first among equals” among these Patriarchates – although, as several conciliar pronouncements made clear, “first” meant that it was based on “Old Rome’s” status as the original capital of the Empire.

Theological commentators and historical analysts should bear in mind that the process in the Orthodox Church may undoubtedly not appear as orderly or organized as that in some Western churches precisely because it involves a consensus among all churches, rather than the imposition of one church or leader.

However, it is naïve to dismiss disagreements among various churches sweepingly, implying that these merely result from rivalries of power. While such a perception may not be entirely erroneous, and while such a process may be frustrating to those inside as to those outside the Orthodox Church, it is in some ways a profoundly—even if often painful—democratic method than frequently perceived.

The issues for discussion and decision at the Great Council have been painstakingly determined since the early 1970s, with some of them going back to the early 1960s. The topics and texts include some esoteric items, such as the ranking of churches (they will continue to argue among themselves as to who is greatest, Luke 9:46, Luke 22:24, Mark 9:34) and discussion about a common calendar; but they also include problems that emerge from adapting an ancient faith to a modern reality—like precepts of fasting and, in particular, regulations of marriage in a multicultural and interreligious world.

Most importantly, the documents tackle sensitive matters, such as relations of the Orthodox Church with the other Christian confessions, the role and response of the Orthodox Church to the contemporary challenges of our age, as well as “unorthodox” (or uncanonical) governance issues facing the Orthodox Church in the Western world.


  1. Rome is not in communion with the Orthodox so it is no surprise that they were omitted. The Orthodox teach that the Rome (and the Western Church) in general apostatized in 1054 AD with the addition of the filoque, and since then it does not possess the fullness of catholic truth. The EO teach that Rome stopped being part of the visible chrurch in 1054 AD. Though I do wonder if the EO will invite Protestants and Catholics to at least attend the council like many Protestants were invited to attend Vatican II, even though they had no say in the council's matters. They were only there as spectators.

  2. In a letter to Pope Francis 3 Orthodox Bishops wrote this to him:

    And so, Your Excellency, because death is uncertain and because, according
    to the Gospel verse, “Ye know not the hour nor the day of death,” for this reason we urge
    you, as the least of the members of the All-Holy and Spotless Body of Christ and
    especially as Orthodox Bishops, hasten to return to the bosom of the Orthodox Church,
    before the end comes. The Triune God accepts you with open arms! There will be joy on
    earth among the right-believing brothers over your return, and among the Angels in
    heaven as well! Make haste to enter the divine bridal chamber before the door is closed,
    because, according to St. Cyril, as many as were defiled with heresy will be devoid of the
    garment of incorruption.
    Finally we must make known to you that any censure and abuse that might come upon us
    for this gesture of ours will constitute the greatest crown of our life according to the true
    conformation of our Savior (Matt. 10:11); and be sure that the above truth will soon be
    verified, because “death was given to men that evil might not become immortal.”
    We pray that the uncreated Grace of the All-Holy Spirit will enlighten your mind and
    strengthen you to shake off the slumber of delusion, heresy and sloth and to draw nigh to
    the open arms of the Orthodox Church.
    Restore the abject and erstwhile senior and ancient Patriarchate of Old Rome and the
    West to the Body of Christ, to the Body of the Church. Take upon yourself your holy
    duties as the First Orthodox Primate of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches with the
    true primacy of honor, which is your right as the Orthodox First Hierarch, of the One,
    Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Amen.
    With respect,

    1. You may be aware Vincent, that I've written a similar letter to "Pope Francis":

      Dear Bishop of Rome Bergoglio:

      Your most recent interview is getting a lot of press. But if your intentions are truly as honorable as you say they are, there is only one thing that is required.

      The time is long past for some pope (you or any other pope) to stop saying “the [Roman Catholic] Church should not be…” You need to say what it is and what it has been.

      It is true, that would contradict official Roman Catholic doctrine about “the Church”. But that is the thing that is needed. Stop trying to “reconcile” Vatican I and Vatican II, for example, stop wasting the lives and the talents of the theologians who are engaged in such self-serving exercises, and simply admit that “the official Church – the papacy – has erred in its hubris, in its self-confident (and bombastic) proclamations of its own power and glory.”

      You need to say "It has erred in its very definitions of doctrines surrounding the papacy and Mary and the Lord’s Supper. In its historical treatment of the Jews. In that it has fomented wars, that it has persecuted honest Christians, that it has rewarded deceit in many forms, that it has, in fact, been, on a historical scale (aside from or in addition to the things that good Catholics have done) one of the more pernicious and malevolent forces in history.”

      The time is long, long past for some pope to stop saying “I [personally] am a sinner…” (as you had done at the beginning of the interview), to stop shifting the blame to “the sins of the children of the Church”.

      If your intentions truly are what you say they are, you need to start saying, and quickly, “The Roman Catholic Church has sinned against Christ and his church and humanity” — and then, as is required by your own doctrine of confession, you need to articulate these sins clearly and in fact numerically.

      It takes no imagination whatsoever to understand what these sins are.

      That alone will be a show of good faith. All the rest of your happy-hopeful statements are mere window dressing and evasion and dissembling.


      Someone who was once “a good Catholic”
      and who rejects what the Roman Catholic Church really is.

    2. Link for Orthodox letter to Pope:

    3. Hah, Ian, "The abysmal state of papism" -- I'm sure that will win some hearts and minds!

      Thanks for the link!

  3. Should the Protestant Churches also try to reconcile with the EO church? The whole point of that letter is that the western church needs to be reconciled to Holy Orthodoxy, which it was once a part of before the schism of 1054.

    1. Vincent, the way that the EOs see it, Rome broke off of them, and then the Protestants splintered off of Rome. However, it could also be said that "they got most of the things wrong that Rome got wrong, except for the things beginning in 1054".

      Check this out for some good overviews of Orthodoxy:

  4. John, I hate to burst your bubble about the Orthodox Churches dissing the Roman See, but here is the agenda that the Orthodox have agreed to discuss:

    1. Fasting
    2. Impediments to Marriage
    3. Calendar
    4. Diaspora
    5. Relationship of the Orthodox Church to other Christian Churches
    6. Diptychs
    7. Autonomy and Autocephaly
    8. Manner of granting of Autocephaly
    9. Presence of the Orthodox Church in the World Council of Churches
    10.Proclaiming Christian ideals to the work of Justice and Human Rights

    Number 5 on the agenda is to see if the Orthodox can reach some sort of consensus on fostering closer relations with the Catholic Church, the Eastern Churches that are already in communion with Rome, the Old Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion.

    Since this council is not being called an ecumenical council, except in the liberal news media like the Huffington Post, what difference does it make whether they invited us Catholics or not. Of course, if they had invited you, Steve Hays, your pastors, or Bishop James White, then you would have something to write about.

    God bless!

    1. May the Lord be merciful to you as well Paul Hoffer.