Orthodox Churches to hold first ecumenical council in 1200 years

Patriarchs of the world’s Orthodox Churches have agreed to hold an ecumenical council in 2016, the first in more than a millennium.

The council could lead to closer ties to the Roman Catholic Church.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I fears that some churches are too isolated from each other and the outer world.

Speaking to a summit in Istanbul, he said the council must find a way to help Orthodox churches resolve their differences.

It must also help them work more as one church rather than many, he said.

“Unless the Orthodox Church places its own house in order, it would be unable to address the world with authority and validity,” he said.

He mentioned “relations with non-Orthodox Christians” as a topic to be debated before the council, but gave no specifics.

Patriarch Bartholomew will meet Pope Francis in Jerusalem in May.

The council, officially called the Holy and Great Synod, will take place in Istanbul’s Hagia Irene.

This is a former Byzantine church in a courtyard of Topkapi Palace, the home of the Ottoman sultans.

One of the main questions facing the 2016 council will be how to balance relations among the Orthodox Churches.

The Russian church, after seven decades of subjugation under communism, has re-emerged as an influential voice in world Christianity.

A communique from the patriarchs stressed that all decisions at the council would be taken by consensus.

This is a position the Russians strongly defended in preparations for the meeting.

The patriarchs also called for “peaceful negotiations and prayerful reconciliation in the ongoing crisis in Ukraine”.

They adenounced what they said were “threats of violent occupation of sacred monasteries and churches” there.

On the Middle East, the patriarchs denounced “the lack of peace and stability, which is prompting Christians to abandon the land where our Lord Jesus Christ was born”.



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