Catholic World News

Russian prelate questions whether pan-Orthodox council will take place

December 30, 2015

Plans for a long-awaited council of all the world’s Orthodox leaders could be in jeopardy because of disagreements among the Orthodox churches, according to a leading representative of the Patriarchate of Moscow.

"There are doubts about the very possibility of a Pan-Orthodox Council being held at a time when some of the Orthodox churches are in a state of unsettled conflict,’ said Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, who heads the ecumenical department of the Russian Orthodox Church. He added that the “extremely unstable general political situation worldwide” also casts shadows on the prospects for such a meeting.

Metropolitan Hilarion said that the Moscow patriarchate remains committed to working toward a council. But he observed that there is “no unanimous understanding” among Orthodox leaders about the items that would be on the agenda for such a meeting, or the rules of procedure.

The world’s ranking Orthodox patriarchs agreed last year to summon a council for 2016 “unless prevented by unexpected circumstances.” Few details have been determined, however, and Metropolitan Hilarion said it is still too early to set dates for the meeting.

The Orthodox churches have never held a worldwide council since breaking with Rome. The Russian Orthodox Church—which claims by far the largest membership of any Orthodox body—has frequently been at odds with other Orthodox churches regarding both theological issues (such as papal primacy) and questions of jurisdiction over (such as the recognition of autocephalous Orthodox churches in the newly independent nations of what was the Soviet Union).

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