Ecumenical Patriarch: “The Holy and Great Synod is of direct and vital interest both for the Orthodox, and for the rest of the Christian world”

The Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches

The Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches


From 22 to 27 January 2016, at the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, the works of the Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches are being carried out.

At the opening of the event, His Holiness Bartholomew, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, delivered a speech thanking the other Primates of the Orthodox Churches, as well as the delegations, for accepting to change the place of the Synaxis from the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s residence in Istanbul, Turkey, to the Chambésy Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which is “meant for serving the pan-Orthodox unity, and which for a long time has hosted and still hosts many inter-Orthodox and pan-Orthodox meetings”.

Next, the Ecumenical Patriarch referred to the themes that will be discussed at the Holy and Great Synod, themes that have been established at the first Presynodal Pan-Orthodox Conference of 1976, namely:

  1. The Orthodox Diaspora;
  2. Autocephaly and the way it is to be proclaimed;
  3. Autonomy and the way it is to be proclaimed;
  4. Diptychs;
  5. Common Calendar;
  6. Impediments to marriage;
  7. Adaptation of the fasting ordinances;
  8. Relations of the Orthodox Churches with the whole Christian World;
  9. The Orthodoxy and the ecumenical movement;
  10. Contributions of the local Orthodox Churches to the promotion of the Christian ideals of peace, freedom, brotherhood and love among peoples, and elimination of racial discrimination.

Nevertheless, His Holiness noted that consensus hasn’t been reached on some themes during the meetings of the Commission for the Preparation of the Holy and Great Synod, thus asking whether the 8 themes that were validated at a Pan-Orthodox level are sufficient for the agenda of the Synod, or is it necessary to postpone the convocation of the Synod until the pan-Orthodox unanimity will be reached upon all the other themes (autocephaly, diptychs, impediments to marriage and common calendar).

The Holy and Great Synod is of direct and vital interest both for the Orthodox lay faithful, clergy and monastics, and for the rest of the Christian world

Emphasizing the fact that “the Holy and Great Synod is of direct and vital interest both for the Orthodox lay faithful, clergy and monastics, and for the rest of the Christian world”, His Holiness added that several other persons should attend to the works of the Holy and Great Synod as observers: both clergy, monastics and lay faithful of the Orthodox Church, and those of other Christian Churches or Confessions, found in dialogue with the Orthodox Church. The Ecumenical Patriarch offered as an example the fact that at the works of the Second Vatican Council, the Orthodox Church delegated persons as observers to attend the Council.

Referring to the fact that even before the meeting of the Holy and Great Synod, some “fighters for Orthodoxy” call it a robber council, the Ecumenical Patriarch asks what kind of authority will its decisions have, and which are going to be the canonical consequences in case of disobeying these decisions.

The Patriarch of Constantinople also spoke about the significance of the words consensus and unanimity. Furthermore, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew emphasized the fact that “if a synod meets under the threat of its dissolution, it had better not taken place” and referred to some Ecumenical Synods that met even when some local Churches were absent.

His Holiness addressed to other practical details: the duration of the Holy and Great Synod, and the establishment of a common secretariat of the Synod. The Ecumenical Patriarch proposed that the Pan-Orthodox Synod should be carried out for at least two weeks, and its works should be accompanied by religious manifestations.

Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Corinthians 13: 11) were the biblical words with which His Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew concluded his speech.



  1. There is NO ORTHODOX DIASPORA! Wherever Orthodox Christians have gone around the world, they have established their own church in their own territory. These people belong to that territory and no where else. The Greeks in Australia only belong to Australia; the Russians in Australia to Australia; etc. Orthodox are not going home to where their ancestors came from and therefore, bishops of these countries cannot claim them as their own. Foreign bishops only have authority for their own immediate territory within local boundaries – Canon Law.

  2. I think that some parishes in the United States continue to feel that they are a diaspora. While I agree with your objective, I think it is more inclusive to use the term diaspora. Also this is a list from 1976….

    • Lena,
      You’ve made a good point. There are parishes that still regard themselves as “diaspora” and promote jurisdictional loyalty to their historic primates in other countries. In some sense, as Christians we are all members of the “diaspora”. Christians are not “of the world” but “in the world”.

  3. Timothy Darkopolous on

    There is No Diaspora, Metropolitan Philip Says, Questions the Purpose of the Bishops Assembly
    MAY 22, 2010 9:41 PM 55 COMMENTS

    The warrior is back! Met. Philip cuts to the heart of some of the nonsense around the Episcopal Assembly. Some highlights:

    There is no Diaspora here. We decided in 1994 with the late Archbishop Iakovos. We rejected the term Diaspora for North America.
    I am going to propose the rejection of this term Diaspora
    The non-recognition of the OCA by Constantinople and Antioch is hypocrisy.
    (Pat. Bartholomew) cannot stand the words “Orthodox unity.”
    And, the untouchable issue:

    Question: How do feel about pederasty and homosexuality in the Church? Answer: It is the most disgusting, it is a horrible thing, and there is no reason in the Orthodox Church for it and I absolutely have zero tolerance for it.
    This is good.


    The National Herald, Friday, May 21, 2010

    By Theodore Kalmoukos
    Metropolitan Philip
    Metropolitan Philip
    BOSTON – Metropolitan Philip, Primate of the Autonomous Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of America with 265 parishes, six Bishops and 350 priests, is the Vice-Chairman of the Standing Conference of Canonical Bishops of America, known as SCOBA, and also Vice-Chairman of the upcoming Panorthodox Bishops Assembly. In an exclusive interview with The National Herald, the prominent Prelate said that, “I really do not know what the purpose of this Assembly is all about.” He proposed an idea as a solution to the issue of what would happen to the Diaspora in the United States. He said, “At one time I proposed that the Ecumenical Patriarch leave Constantinople and come to Washington D.C. or to New York and keep his title as ecumenical Patriarch.”
    In the interview, he touched on other critical areas for the church, including division and dissent.

    TNH: What are you thoughts about the upcoming Assembly of Orthodox Bishops in New York?

    Philip: I do not see much difference between the coming Assembly and SCOBA. SCOBA is not dissolved, it is 50 years old, it has a constitution, it has not been dissolved. We had Bishop’s Assemblies with SCOBA in 1994 at the Antiochian Village in Ligonier, under Archbishop Iakovos, then we had another one in Washington D.C., and we hade another one in Chicago, so this Bishops Assemblies are not new to us at all, we had them before.

    TNH: What is going to be the purpose of this Assembly?

    Philip: I really do not know and what puzzles me is that we put Central America with North America. Our Bishop Andonios in Central America in Mexico went to Brazil and met with Tarasios and the other Bishops in South America, he refused to come and meet with us because he represents a different culture all together.

    TNH: Are you going to this Assembly without knowing why you are there?

    Philip: Exactly.

    TNH: But you are the Vice-Chairman.

    Philip: Yes I am. (laughter). There is no preparation. The Archbishop should have called the executive committee of SCOBA first and tell us what he wants to tell us. What is happening? How did these people in Geneva issue all these communiques and rules without our knowledge and input as if we do not exist in North America?

    TNH: Representatives of all the Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches were present in Geneva.

    Philip: They do not know anything about America, all those representatives, nothing.

    TNH: I underhand the issue of Diaspora will be discussed.

    Philip: There is no Diaspora here. We decided in 1994 with the late Archbishop Iakovos. We rejected the term Diaspora for North America; Diaspora is in Jerusalem today, we have two thousand Orthodox left in Jerusalem and we have in Constantinople two thousand left. In Iraq thousands of Christians have been slaughtered and many fled to Syria and other countries.

    TNH: So the term Diaspora doesn’t exist for you?

    PHILIP: No, we are in a country where we can express ourselves, we can read, we can teach, we can write books, we have institutions, we live in a free country.

    TNH: What are going to propose in this Assembly?

    Philip: I am going to propose the rejection of this term Diaspora

    TNH: Are you going to propose the establishment of an indigenous autocephalous American Orthodox Church?

    Philip: If the Archbishop puts it on the agenda we will be very happy to discuss it.

    TNH: If he doesn’t would you raise the issue?

    Philip: I do not think without any preparations we should jamb into that. I think we should have the executive committee discuss it first and reach some conclusions and then bring these conclusions to the General Assembly of Bishops.

    TN: Do you think, Your Eminence, it is practically feasible for the creation of an American Autocephalous Orthodox Church with all the Orthodox Jurisdictions United?

    Philip: No, but we could have a Synod of Bishops. We have a new situation here in North America and we need some creative thinking. We need some innovation to have a Synod of canonical Bishops.

    TNH: Is that what SCOBA was?

    Philip: SCOBA was not too much. I do not want to diminish SCOBA, we established the Orthodox Christian Commission, the IOCC, and the OCMC.

    TNH: Why did you say it is not feasible the creation of an Autocephalous American Orthodox Church?

    Philip: Who is going to recognize us? The so-called Mother Churches opposes that. Patriarch Bartholomew opposes that. He cannot stand the word Orthodox Unity, for example.

    TNH: What about your Patriarch Ignatius?

    Philip: Patriarch Ignatius dances to the music of Patriarch Bartholomew. In the future it is inevitable to happen because we will be dealing with second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth generations of Orthodox born in this country. I hope it will be brought up in this Assembly, but I do not control the agenda. I do not know what is going to come out of this. We have given some rules. I told them even at SCOBA at least consult with us. We are here in America and we have rules imposed on us from oversees. We have been in this country for two hundred years. The future of Orthodoxy is here in America. At one time I proposed that the Ecumenical Patriarch leave Constantinople and come to Washington D.C. or to New York and keep his title as Ecumenical Patriarch.

    TN: Would you submit to him?

    Philip: Of course I will submit to him, we are going to have a United Orthodox Church in America with a Patriarch here and especially with an Ecumenical Patriarch.

    TNH: What is the story with OCA?

    Philip: Since 1970 they have autocephaly and they are not recognized any anyone except Moscow. The OCA situation is unfortunate; they have been trying very hard to get recognition but Constantinople is against recognizing them and Antioch is likewise nobody recognizes them but they do exist de facto.

    TNH: Is your Archdiocese in Eucharistic Communion with OCA?

    Philip: Of course we are.

    TNH: You mean that you co-celebrate the Liturgy

    Philip: Absolutely.

    TNH: Then how come the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Antioch do not recognize them? Is this some type of hypocrisy?

    Philip: It is.

    TNH: Do you miss Archbishop Iakovos?

    PHILLILP: I miss him a lot, we worked together for so many years, he was a great leader.

    TNH: How is your relationship with Archbishop Demetrios?

    Philip: It is good.

    TNH: When did you talk to him last time?

    Philip: He called the headquarters, I was in the hospital for a small procedure, and when I go home the first phone call that I am going to make will be to Archbishop Demetrios, to see what he wants. Probably he wants to have a meeting to discuss SCOBA first before we go to this Assembly with all kinds of confusion.

    TNH: What is the administrative status of your Archdiocese? Are you autonomous? Was your autonomy recalled?

    Philip: We are a self rule Archdiocese.

    TNH: You mean autonomous

    Philip: Yes, but our Patriarch is allergic to the word autonomous. I asked him would you accept self-ruled?’

    TNH: It is the same thing, is it not?

    Philip: It is, but when I said self-ruled he said, no that is the word.

    TNH: Where do you stand on the issue of married Bishops? Should we go back to the old tradition?

    Philip: If this is the wish of the Church I am for it.

    TNH: How do you feel about pederasty and homosexuality in the Church?

    Philip: It is the most disgusting, it is a horrible thing, and there is no reason in the Orthodox Church for it and I absolutely have zero tolerance for it.

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