The Moscow patriarchate has refused to participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council that was expected to be held on Crete on June 16-27.
"All Churches should participate in the Pan-Orthodox Council, and only in that case decisions made by the Council will be legitimate," Metropolitan Hilarion, the head of the external church relations department of the Moscow patriarchate, said on Monday following an emergency session of the Synod in Moscow.
He said that several local Orthodox churches - Bulgarian, Antioch and Georgian - refused to take part in the Council and the Serbian church has asked for it to be rescheduled.
The Constantinople patriarchate, which is in charge of the preparations for the forum, refused the Moscow patriarchate's initiative to call a pre-council meeting where an attempt could be made to settle debatable issues.
At the same time, Metropolitan Hilarion does not see the events involving Council as a deadlock situation. "The situation that has occurred is not catastrophic, it's a regular situation," he told reporters.
The hierarch believes that "we should learn lessons from it and understand that the voices of Churches cannot be ignored."
Participants in the Pan-Orthodox Council, which has not convened for more than 1,000 years and has taken over half a century to prepare for, were expected to discuss six issues on Crete on June 16-27: the relations between the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian world, the attitude to fasting, marriage, the church mission in the contemporary world, spiritual guidance of Orthodox Christians in the diaspora, and methods of proclaiming the autonomy of Orthodox churches. An address was also expected to be adopted at the council meeting.
The future Council is not Ecumenical by its status. Unlike the ancient Ecumenical Councils, it does not aim to resolve dogma-related issues and will not bring anything new to canonical structure and liturgy life.
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