Orthodox primates have attended a meeting chaired by the Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, in Chambésy, Geneva, Switzerland, and set a June date for a larger Orthodox convocation, the Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew convened a Synaxis of Primates of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches at the Orthodox Centre of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, Geneva, from 21to 28 January, 2016.
All of the primates attended the synaxis in person with a few exceptions.
Patriarch John X of Antioch and Metropolitan Sawa of Poland were unable to attend due to health reasons, and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece was absent for personal reasons. All three were represented by officially authorized delegates.
On Sunday, 24 January, a Divine Liturgy was held at the Church of St. Paul at the Orthodox Centre.
Along with the Ecumenical Patriarch, the heads of the delegations of the Orthodox churches concelebrated the liturgy, with the exception of the head of the delegation of the Patriarchate of Antioch.
Synaxis sessions were held in the apostolic spirit of “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4.15), in harmony and understanding, and the primates affirmed their decision to convene the Holy and Great Council.
The Council will be held at the Orthodox Academy of Crete from 16 to 27 June 2016.
“To this end, the primates humbly invoke the grace and blessing of the Holy Trinity and fervently invite the prayers of the fullness of the Church, clergy and laity, for the period leading to and the sessions of the Holy and Great Council,” they said in a communiqué issued at the end of the Synaxis.
“The items officially approved for referral to and adoption by the Holy and Great Council are: the mission of the Orthodox Church in the contemporary world, the Orthodox diaspora, autonomy and its manner of proclamation, the sacrament of marriage and its impediments, the significance of fasting and its application today, and relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian world.”
The primates also determined the establishment of a Panorthodox Secretariat, the by-laws of the Council, the participation of non-Orthodox observers in the opening and closing sessions, and the Council’s budgetary costs.
“Moreover, the Primates expressed their support for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East and their ongoing concern for the abduction of the two Metropolitans, Paul Yazigi of the Patriarchate of Antioch and Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Archdiocese.”
Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit, general secretary of the World Council of Churches (WCC), hosted a dinner with the Primates of the Orthodox churches at the Ecumenical Institute at the Château de Bossey. They were reminded of the role the institute has played in the ecumenical theological education of church leaders since its creation in 1946.
Patriarch Bartolomew was a Bossey student 50 years ago, and Patriarch Daniel of the Romanian Orthodox Church was a Bossey professor for many years, while Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana and all Albania was president of the WCC from 2004-2013.