Orthodox leaders smooth path to proposed summit meeting

September 2, 2011

Moscow, September 2 (ENInews)--The patriarchs of three ancient Orthodox
Christian churches met from 1-2 September in Istanbul to discuss the
situation of Christian minorities in the Middle East, and perhaps an even more
prickly topic -- the move toward a historic pan-Orthodox council -- removing
major stumbling blocks to what would be the first such gathering in centuries. 

The pan-Orthodox council is regarded with great interest by the world's
Orthodox churches, many of which are in unstable regions following
revolutions in the Middle East, or in countries facing a third decade of economic and
social transition following the collapse of communism in the Soviet Union
and Eastern Europe.

"The patriarchs, and of course the Archbishop of Cyprus, they all
expressed the readiness to proceed to the pan-Orthodox council that is forthcoming,
and they said to me that they support the initiative of the Ecumenical
Patriarch to this direction," said Metropolitan Elpidophoros of Proussa,
former chief secretary of the Synodical Office of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,
also known as the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The meeting, called a synaxis, was hosted by Patriarch Bartholemew of
Constantinople and attended by Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria, Patriarch
Theophilos of Jerusalem, and Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus. Patriarch
Igantius of Antioch was represented by a bishop.

Representatives of 14 Orthodox churches met in Chambesy, Switzerland last
February to try to establish a consensus towards a pan-Orthodox council,
but became mired in disputes about diptychs, the order of commemoration of
the churches, and procedures for autocephaly, or the granting of independence
to a church. After Chambesy, Patriarch Bartholomew sent a letter to church
leaders asking how they wanted to proceed. 

This time, Elpidophoros, said, "the answer of almost all the Orthodox
churches was that we can proceed to the pan-Orthodox council without having
agreed on these two issues of diptychs and the autocephaly," he said in an
interview with ENInews. 

Last month, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, chairman of the Moscow
Patriarchate's Department of External Church Relations, toured the Middle
East and met with the patriarchs of Constantinople, Antioch and Jerusalem. He
discussed the importance to Moscow, which is the world's largest Orthodox
Church, of the Istanbul meeting and its potential for influencing the move
towards a pan-Orthodox council.

At the Istanbul meeting, the leaders discussed the threats to Christians
in the Middle East in the wake of recent upheavals. "According to the report
of the Patriarchs and the Archbishop of Cyprus, the behavior of these
revolutionaries towards the Christian minorities is very hostile and
aggressive, and this makes the Christian leaders, and of course the patriarchs, very
much concerned about the future," said Elpidophoros.