The Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, has convoked a surprise meeting of the patriarchs and archbishops of all the Orthodox Churches at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul this coming March.
The purpose of the meeting is to discuss
the guidelines and timeframe for the Preparatory Commission of the
Pan-Orthodox Synod which is scheduled to take place in 2015.
Polis revealed this in an article published by AsiaNews, in which
he explains the underlying attempt on the part of Patriarch Bartholomew
to bring the Orthodox Churches out of their isolation.
circles see this as an attempt to move beyond a self-marginalization
born of a localist mentality that has characterized the Orthodox
Churches in the modern era, partly because of a certain post- Ottoman
filettism (nationalism),” Da Polis writes.
The meeting is intended as an
opportunity for Constantinople to remind all Orthodox Churches that
they cannot face the emergencies presented by globalisation without
By speeding up preparations for the “Great and
Holy Council”, Bartholomew aims to reaffirm his positions as first among
equals, among the other Orthodox Patriarchs that is.
For decades the
Orthodox world has been desperately trying to form an ecclesial axis to
deal with the problems that the Orthodox Churches face in today’s world.
Backing Bartholomew is the Metropolitan of Pergamon, Ioannis Zizioulas,
co-chairman of ecumenical dialogue between Catholics and Orthodox
considered by many to be the greatest living Christian theologian. He
has been warning against the risk of “introversion” in the Orthodox
world for a long time. He believes Orthodox Churches need a large-scale
synodal event like the Catholic Church’s Second Vatican Council in order
to avoid withdrawing into ghettos and becoming self-marginalised.
his book Orthodoxy in the Modern World Zizioulas wrote that the
greatest danger faced not just by Orthodoxy but by the whole Christian
world, “is not atheism, secular power in general or its various enemies”
but “any escape from the historical reality and the continuing search
for identity exclusively in the past.” This is especially common among
men of the Church who are overcome by a “narcissist self-satisfaction
that only leads to sterile confrontations.”
The messages and gestures of the current Bishop of
Rome seem to have had a domino effect, stimulating the Orthodox
Churches to reflect on their situation. Patriarch Bartholomew
immediately grasped the ecumenical possibilities that opened up with the
arrival of the new Pope. His attendance at the inaugural mass for the
start of Francis’ Petrine ministry and at next May’s meeting between the
successors to the apostles Peter and Andrew in Jerusalem are signs of a
journey that has only just begun and which promises progress on an
But the Argentinean Pope’s new modus operandi is
also influencing the Russian Orthodox Church. The sign of the cross and
the kiss which Vladimir Putin and the Pope both offered to the icon of
Our Lady of Tenderness when the Russian President visited the Vatican,
left a deep imprint in the minds of the Russian Orthodox faithful.
leaders of the Russian orthodox Church, including Hilarion of
Volokolamsk who was also received by Pope Francis, stressed that they
wished to focus on engaging in dialogue over issues in which Catholicism
and Orthodoxy share common ground such as the protection of moral
values and the suffering of Christians in the Middle East, instead of
the theological conflict between these Churches.
At the end of December,
the Holy Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church said “niet” once again to
the Ravenna document produced by the mixed Orthodox-Catholic
theological Commission. The text attempted to come up with a formula for
the theological doctrine of primacy that was acceptable to the Orthodox
Churches as well.
The relations established with Pope Francis are
giving new impetus to the discussions between the Orthodox and Catholic
Churches which were never concluded. But this could unearth further
contradictions that lie at the heart of the Orthodox faith. The image
Bergoglio has been giving of himself as a shepherd who forsakes himself
and is full of apostolic fervour, has been well received by Orthodox
faithful as well.
Inevitably, this leads one to draw comparisons
with the Orthodox clergy, who in many cases indulge in a sense of
self-satisfaction and see themselves as members of a privileged class.
After the scandals over the road accidents caused by members of the
clergy driving big SUVs, there is now huge controversy over the “gay
lobby” which is allegedly active within the Moscow Patriarchate. The
issue has been denounced by proto-deacon and blogger, Andrei Kuraev, and
could take some unexpected turns.