Pan-Orthodox Council to Begin in Crete amid Boycott of Several ChurchesSociety | June 16, 2016, Thursday // 14:50| views
The Bulgarian Holy Synod building in central Sofia. File photo, BGNES
Four Orthodox churches, including those of Bulgaria and Russia, are not attending a Pan-Orthodox council in Crete that to mend fences for the first time in nearly 1000 years.
The other two are the Church of Antioch and the Georgian Church.
The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church decided earlier in June to call for it to be postponed, citing "lack fo dialogue" and warning it would otherwise boycott it. Apart from procedural issues, the clergy cited excessive formalities and lack of equality among member churches that will be underpinning the council. Separately, it said a Bulgarian participation would result in "big and unfounded financial costs in case of participation of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church".
The Ecumenical Patriarch later said it would not reschedule the council, calling on the Bulgarian church and the others boycotting to reverse their decision.
Serbia's orthodox church had initially threatened to boycott, but its head Irinej was the first to arrive, according to Russian and English-language Greek media.
A total of six main issues are selected for the council that has been in the making since the 1960s. These include autonomy of churches, the attitude of Orthodox Christianity to other Christians, the church's mission in the world, marriage, and the Orthodox diaspora.
The 10-day event was envisaged to be the first-of-a-kind meeting of Orthodox leaders (the bishops of all universally recognized, or autocephalous local and national Orthodox churches) since the Schism of 1054. It was initially to be hosted by the Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul, but had to be moved out of Turkey as tensions flared between Ankara and Moscow over a downed Russian fighter-bomber.
The 14 Orthodox churches disagree over a number of issues, including the dates for Eastern celebrations, questions related to marriage, and the order in which all of them are enumerated by the Ecumenical Patriarchate (whose leader Bartholomew, short of being head of all Orthodox Churches, is considered "first among equals").