CRETE—After more than 60 years of planning, the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church convened its opening session on the island of Crete on Monday, June 20, on the Feast of the Holy Spirit. After the celebration of the Divine Liturgy at the nearby Monastery of Gonia, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew formally opened the proceedings of the Council. With one voice and one heart, the Hierarchs of the Council chanted the hymn of Pentecost, invoking the descent of the Holy Spirit to transform their work for the benefit of the Church and the entire world.
The First Session of the Council provided the Primates the opportunity to formally address the Hierarchs of the Council. In his keynote address, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew emphasized that gathering in the same place “comprises a characteristic of the Church’s nature.” Stressing the importance of unity, Patriarch Bartholomew stated that “the voice of the Comforter calls all to unity and calls us to turn our attention and widen our heart toward all people, lovingly embracing the vital problems that concern them, preaching the good news of peace and love to those near and afar.” His All-Holiness also addressed the Official Observers from other Churches, noting: “we have journeyed together in theological dialogue and ecumenical cooperation in our willingness to respond to the theological divisions of the past and the global challenges of our time.”
One by one, all of the Primates offered their remarks, expressing joy for assembling with their brothers “in the same place” as a witness of their unity. His Beatitude Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus acknowledged the need for regular councils bringing together Hierarchs from around the world in order to develop a common response to pressing issues, including bioethical and environmental dilemmas. Addressing the mission of the Church in the world, His Beatitude Archbishop Anastasios of Albania underlined the need for repentance, while His Beatitude Archbishop Rastislav of the Czech Lands and Slovakia underscored the fact that, in spite of their ethnic differences, Orthodox Christians are one people.
The Second Session of the Council addressed the first Pre-Conciliar Document, entitled The Mission of the Church in Today’s World. Following a thorough review of the text, the Hierarchs of the Council engaged in open dialogue. Individual Hierarchs as well as particular Church delegations submitted proposals on how to enhance the decision. The Pan-Orthodox Secretariat will incorporate the amendments and resubmit it to the Council Fathers.
Finally, the Hierarchs of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church unanimously agreed to send a message to His Beatitude Patriarch Ignatius Aphrem II of the Syriac Orthodox Church, expressing their prayers and solidarity with him and his community following yesterday’s tragedy in northeast Syria.
The Council continues meeting through June 25, concluding with the Divine Liturgy on June 26.
As they become available, photos for use without modification or alteration are available at https://www.orthodoxcouncil.org/photos. All texts and homilies related to the Holy and Great Council are available at https://media.holycouncil.org/texts.