During the meeting (Synaxis) of all Eastern-Orthodox Patriarchs 6-8 March 2014 in Fanar, Istanbul, Turkey, at the seat of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, a historical decision was reached:
“Our heart is set on the long-awaited Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church in order to witness to its unity as well as to its responsibility and care for the contemporary world. The Synaxis agreed that the preparatory work to the Synod should be intensified. A special Inter-Orthodox Committee will work from September 2014 until Holy Easter of 2015, followed by a Pre-Synodal Pan-Orthodox Conference to be convened in the first half of 2015. All decisions at the Synod and in the preparatory stages are made by consensus. The Holy and Great Synod of the Orthodox Church will be convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Constantinople in 2016, unless something unexpected occurs. The Synod will be presided by the Ecumenical Patriarch. His brother Primates of the other Orthodox Autocephalous Churches will be seated at his right and at his left”.
The last Holy Synod, as the Eastern Orthodox consider, took place in Nicaea in the year 787.
The new synod was discussed among the Orthodox for the last 53 years, since the historical meeting in 1961, also in Greece. It is yet to be seen what will be the approved (by consensus) topics, but here are some that have been put on hold in the past, until the new synod:
– Issue of the calendar (some still celebrate according to the Old Calendar);
– Issue of the order of churches;
– The status of the Eastern Orthodox believers in this world;
– The relations with the Catholic Church;
– Decline in membership;
– Issues with Islam;
– New technologies, bio engineering; ecology, etc.
Although not announced, one could expect that the Synod finally decide on the canon of the Old Testament, as it differs from church to church. As a reminder, here are the Eastern Orthodox churches of today:
- Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople (Archbishop of Constantinople-New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch)
- Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria (His Most Divine Beatitude the Pope and Patriarch of the Great City of Alexandria, Libya, Pentapolis, Ethiopia, all the land of Egypt, and all Africa, Father of Fathers, Shepherd of Shepherds, Prelate of Prelates, Thirteenth of the Apostles, and Judge of the Oecumene)
- Greek Orthodox Church of Antioch (Patriarch of Antioch and all the East)
- Greek Orthodox Church of Jerusalem (Patriarch of the Holy City of Jerusalem and all Palestine, and of Syria, Arabia, beyond the Jordan River, Cana of Galilee, and Sacred Zion)
- Orthodox Church of Russia (Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia)
- Orthodox Church of Georgia (Catholicos-Patriarch of All Georgia, the Archbishop of Mtskheta-Tbilisi and Metropolitan bishop of Abkhazia and Pitsunda.)
- Orthodox Church of Serbia (Archbishop of Peć, Metropolitan of Belgrade and Karlovci, Patriarch of the Serbs)
- Orthodox Church of Romania (Archbishop of Bucharest, Metropolitan of Ungro-Valachia, and Patriarch of All Romania)
- Orthodox Church of Bulgaria (Metropolitan of Sofia and Patriarch of All Bulgaria)
- Orthodox Church of Cyprus (Archbishop of New Justiniana and all Cyprus)
- Orthodox Church of Greece (Archbishop of Athens and all Greece)
- Orthodox Church of Poland (Metropolitan of Warsaw and all Poland)
- Orthodox Church of Albania (Archbishop of Tirana and all Albania)
Let us hope to see a greater unity among the Eastern Orthodox Churches and believers.