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Bulgarian Church withdraws from Pan-Orthodox Council

June 01, 2016

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church leadership has announced that it does not intend to participate in the worldwide Orthodox Council that is scheduled to take place in Crete later this month.

The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, meeting on June 1, said that the “Pan-Orthodox Council” should be postponed until “thematic and organizational changes” were made; the Synod listed several disagreements with draft documents that have been prepared for the meeting and with the proposed rules of procedure. The Bulgarian prelates said that they are “determined not to participate if they do not see progress in the resolution of their claims.”

At this late date it is highly unlikely that substantial changes will be made in the plans for the Pan-Orthodox Council. The preparatory documents, in particular, are the result of long and exacting negotiations among representatives of the world’s disparate Orthodox communities. Thus the withdrawal of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church seems inevitable: a major blow to the ambitious plan for an unprecedented meeting of all the world’s autocephalous Orthodox churches.

The rules that have been established for the Pan-Orthodox Council require unanimous agreement on any changes that are made to the working documents. By declining to participate, the Bulgarian prelates may be hoping to put pressure on other Orthodox leaders to tone down—or perhaps table—statements on controversial issues such as ecumenism.


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