Things will move forward. As agreed by all Primates of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches in January in Chambésy, the “Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church” will begin on the Greek island of Crete as scheduled.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople responds with this “technical” statement to the defection of the Russian Orthodox Church.
The communiqué does not expressly refer to the decision of the Moscow Patriarchate, which brings the number of Orthodox Churches that will not attend the Council to 5 (out of 14), but states clearly that the work will move forward.
“The Orthodox Church worldwide – the communiqué reads – is about to begin a historic move towards unity in Crete, and His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew arrived on the Greek island at 1pm on 15 June, where he will convene the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, the first meeting of its kind between the leaders of the Orthodox Churches in some 1,000 years. Other representatives of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches will arrive on 16 June”.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate does not take sides and does not make any comment on the criticism raised by the Churches of Bulgaria, Serbia, Antioch, Georgia, and Russia about the pre-conciliar documents, but insists that “items on the agenda have been under discussion for more than 50 years by Inter-Orthodox Preparatory Commissions and Pan-Orthodox Pre-Conciliar Conferences”.
The statement ends with a reminder that “in preparation for the Holy and Great Council, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convened the Synaxis of Primates of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, Geneva, from 21 to 28 January 2016. A Small Synaxis of the Primates has also been scheduled for 17 June”.