Synodality and Primacy in the Orthodox Church

From the Keynote Address by Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware of Diokleia) at the IOTA Inaugural Conference, 9-12 January 2019 in Iasi, Romania



Turning now to synodality, we can see at once the way in which a Church council is to be regarded as a Eucharistic event. Most councils have been concerned with the restoration of Eucharistic communion when this has been broken, with the question who may or may not be admitted to receive the sacrament; and most (if not all) councils have concluded with a concelebrated Liturgy, embracing all the members.

What is the aim of every council? It is, through the exercise of collective discernment, to attain a common mind. Yet this common mind is not simply the sum total of the convictions of the various participants. When gathered in council, we sinners become something more than what we are as isolated individuals; and this ‘something more’ is exactly the presence of Christ Himself, active among us through the grace of the Holy Spirit. As our Lord has promised, Where two or three are gathered together in My name, there am I in their midst (Matt. 18:20). It is this dominical affirmation that validates every true council. Is it not significant that the Paraclete descended on the first disciples in Jerusalem, not when each was praying separately on his own, but when they were all together in one place (Acts· 2:1)?

Two or three, said Christ. It is of course true that He also comes to us when we are alone, when in watchful silence we explore the inner sanctuary of our heart and discover there His indwelling presence. Solitude, which is not the same as loneliness, is indeed an integral aspect of our life in Christ. Yet, despite the profound value that solitude possesses, solidarity and togetherness—along with all that is meant by the Russian term sobornostis yet more precious. The Church is not a conglomeration of self-contained monads, but a body with many limbs, organically interdependent.

That is why, within the Church, we each say to the other, ‘I need you in order to be myse1f’. That is why, at every level of ecclesial life, and not least at every council, the members of the Church say not ‘I’ but ‘we’, not ‘me’ but ‘us’. ‘It has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us’, stated the disciples at the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15:28). ‘Us’ is the decisive synodical word. It is surely a striking fact that in the prayer bequeathed to us by Christ (Matt. 6:9 13), the word ‘us’ occurs five times, the word ‘our’ three times, and. the word ‘we’ once; but nowhere in the Lord’s Prayer does the Christian say ‘me’, ‘my’, or ‘I’.

Likewise in the Eucharist—the action that creates the Church—at the epiclesis or invocation of the Spirit it is said to God: ‘We offer You this spiritual worship without shedding of blood, and we ask, we pray and we beseech You: send down Your Holy Spirit upon us’. By the same token, when reciting the Jesus Prayer that has been my companion for the last sixty years, I prefer to say, not ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy en me’, but rather ‘have mercy on us’. Needless to say, the more usual form ‘have mercy on me’ is entirely legitimate; but in saying ‘on us’ we emphasize that salvation, while personal, is never isolated.

Let us not forget the literal sense of the Greek noun synodos. It is formed from syn, ‘together’, and ‘odos’, ‘path’ or ‘journey’. A synod is a group of persons—primarily bishops,’ but also including priests and lay participants—who are engaged in a common pilgrimage, who are journeying together on the same path. This idea of a shared journey, implying as it does a sense of movement and exploration, reminds us that synods are not static but dynamic, not repetitive but revelatory. ‘Behold, I am making all things new’, proclaims the risen Saviour (Rev. 21:5). At every true church council we experience the newness of our unchanging faith.

When reflecting on synodality, let us envisage it in wide-ranging terms. While it refers in the first instance to the proceedings of actual councils, whether ecumenical or local, it is also to be understood more broadly as a quality extending throughout the Church at every level, in the diocese, in the parish, and in our personal lives. Fr. Georges Florovsky used to speak of need to acquire a ‘patristic mind’; we may speak likewise of the need to acquire a ‘synodical mind’. Synodality implies what has been termed a ‘spirituality of fellowship’1 openness to the other, a willingness to listen. Synodality means not monologue but dialogue, not self-sufficiency but exchange, not solipsism but communion.

We Orthodox are accustomed to speak of ourselves as a conciliar Church, as the Church of the seven Holy Councils, But we have to confess, with humility and realism, that while we affirm synodality in theory, all too often we have neglected it in practice. It is true that, since the era of Ecumenical Councils, there have been a number of synods: the Council of Hagia Sophia in 879-80; the fourteenth-century Palamite Councils at Constantinople (1341, 1347, 1351); the seventeenth-century councils, no1ably here at lafi (1642) and at Jerusalem (1672), which affirmed the true Orthodox t.eacbing concerning the Church and the sacraments; the Council of Constantinople (1872) that condemned ethnophyletism. (Regrettably its teaching is not observed in the contemporary Orthodox diaspora); and more recently the great Moscow Council of 1917-18. Attended by priests and laity as well as bishops, tragically cut short by the Bolshevik Revolution, this was in many ways as radical and innovative as Vatican II not more so.

Without underestimating all these and other councils, should we not admit that all too often Orthodoxy finds it singularly difficult to act in a conciliar way? How many years of preparation and postponement elapsed before the Holy and Great Council actually met in Crete during 2016! In the Roman Catholic Church, on 25 January 1959, Pope John XXIII, to the astonishment of almost everyone, announced the summonina of an Ecumenical Council; and in less than four years, on 11 October 1962, the Council actually began. I am afraid that this is not the way in which things happen in the Orthodox Church. As long ago as 1902 the Ecumenical Patriarch Joachim III sent an Encyclical Letter to all the Orthodox Churches, calling for closer contacts and cooperation. This received a favourable reception. In partcular, the Russian Church replied in 1903, emphasizing the importance of ‘special assemblies of Orthodox bishops’, drawn from all the various Patriarchates and Autocephalous Churches, to confer face to face and ‘mouth to mouth’ on issues of shared concern.2

Here we have the seed that led eventually to the Holy and Great Council of 2016; but it was a long time before this seed bore fruit. In 1923 the Ecumenical Patriarch Meletios IV Metaxakis convened what was intended to be a Pan-Orthodox Conference at Constantinople; but a number of Orthodox Churches failed to attend, and several decisions of this Conference proved deeply divisive, in particular the adoption of the New Calendar. After this, in 1930 an Inter-Orthodox Commission met at the Monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos—there were no women among the delegates!—with the task of preparing for what was termed the ‘Prosynod’, which in its turn was expected to lead to a full Pan-Orthodox Council. But in the event the Prosynod was never convened; still less did the proposed Pan-Orthodox Council itself materialize.

In 1965 the Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras revived the idea of the Holy and Great Council when he convened the first Pan-Orthodox Conference at Rhodes. Here a comprehensive list of possible topics was drawn up. Further preparations for the Council were made at subsequent Pan-Orthodox Conferences in Rhodes and Chembesy. Yet more than a further half-century was to elapse before the Holy and Great Council finally met in Crete in 2016. This continual postponement of the Council recalls the experience of travelling by air in the 1940s or 1950s. As we waited in the runway, the engine kept revving up, the propellers whirled round and round, but it seemed as if the aeroplane was never actually going to get airborne. Hence the most significant thing about the Crete Council of 2016, viewed in this light, was that at long last the Council had finally met.

Sadly the proceedings of the long-awaited Council turned out to be something of a disappointment. It was far from being pan-Orthodox. Of the fourteen Churches that comprise the worldwide Orthodox communion, only ten attended. The Churches of Antioch, Georgia, Bulgaria and Russia chose for various reasons not to come. The OCA (Orthodox Church in America) was not invited. The absence of the Russian Church was particularly damaging; it was also a surprise, for until the last moment the Patriarchate of Moscow had taken an active and positive part in the preparations.

Before the meeting of the Crete Council, some Orthodox spokesmen speculated whether it might not prove to be the Eighth Ecumenical Council. In retrospect no one today takes that view. Indeed, the Crete Council adopted a significantly different procedure from the seven Ecumenical Councils. At the Ecumenical Councils in principle—perhaps not always in practice—all the bishops of the Christian world were invited, since from a sacramental standpoint all had been consecrated in the same way, and therefore all enjoyed the same gifts of grace. Furthermore, at the Ecumenical Councils each bishop voted individually, and decisions were reached by majority vote. The dissenting minority was usually extremely small—at Nicaea I (325) it consisted of no more than two bishops—but nonetheless a dissenting minority existed.

The procedure at Crete was different. Its guiding inspiration was not so much sacramental and charismatic as administrative and bureaucratic. Not all bishops were invited to the Council, but only twenty-four from each Patriarchate or Autocephalous Church. Had all the fourteen Orthodox Churches sent twenty-four delegates, there would have been 336 bishops at Crete; in actuality the number was not much more than 150. (Of course, some Orthodox Churches do not have as many 88 twenty-four bishops; this is the case, for example, with the Churches of Cyprus, Albania, Poland, and of the Czech Lands with Slovakia.)

Another point of difference between Crete and the Ecumenical Councils was that at Crete, so it was decided beforehand, decisions should be reached, not by majority vote as at the Ecumenical Councils, but by consensus. I take this to have meant that, whereas there might have been dissenters withineach delegation of twenty-four, yet the various delegations, each taken as a whole, were all to be required to accept the resolutions by majority vote. Otherwise a single dissenting bishop could have paralysed the entire procedings.

Following a decision reached by the Pan-Orthodox Conference in 1976—no less than forty years previously!—six topics were chosen for discussion at Crete, and on all of these preliminary papers were submitted to the Council:

  1. ‘The Mission of the Orthodox Church in the Contemporary World. The Contribution of the Orthodox Church to the Establishment of Peace, Justice and Freedom, of Brotherhood and Love between People, and the Removal of Sexual and other forms of Discrimination.’

  2. ‘The Orthodox Diaspora.’

  3. ‘Autonomy in the Orthodox Church and the Manner of its proclamation.’

  4. ‘The Mystery of Marriage and its Impediments.’

  5. ‘The Importance of Fasting and its Observance Today.’

  6. ‘Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World.’

Several comments spring immediately to mind. First, these six topics were surely too many to be considered in depth at a meeting that lasted only a little more than a week. In the Roman Catholic Church, the Council of Trent lasted sixteen years, while Vatican II extended across four years, with the sessions amounting altogether to an aggregate of nine months. Because of the short time available and the variety of topics placed before it, the Crete Council lacked a clear focus.

In the case of the seven Ecumenical Councils, each was summoned to deal primarily with a single doctrinal issue that was causing acute controversy throughout the Christian world. But in the case of the Crete Council, there was no such single issue of burning concern. For example, at the end of the Sunday Liturgy in Oxford, where I live, I do not find that I am surrounded by agitated parishioners, exclaiming: ‘Despota, we could not sleep a wink last night. We are all so worried about the manner of proclaiming autonomy.’

Clearly, not all of the six topics are of equal importance. The first, on ‘The Mission of the Church’, is exceedingly general; as a result, the text eventually adopted by the Council said little that was exciting or unexpected. As a regards the third topic, surely the question at issue in contemporary Orthodoxy is not the proclamation of autonomy but the proclamation of autocephaly. But this was not included in the agenda and was not discussed. I do not recall anything being said in Crete about the status of the OCA, recognized as autocephalous by the Moscow Patriarchate but not by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a matter that has been pending for nearly fifty years. Equally nothing was said about the melancholy confusion in Ukraine, and the possibility of establishing an autocephalous Ukrainian Church. Again, I ask myself: Do we really need a Holy and Great Council to make decisions about fasting? Surely this can best be discussed locally and personally at a pastoral level, with the parish priest or the spiritual father.

Two, however, of the six topics are certainly of major importance: the canonical situation of the so-called Diaspora, and the relations of the Orthodox Church with the non­Orthodox world. Yet on these two questions the preliminary papers failed on the whole to come to grips with the real problems involved. As regards the Diaspora, for example, the preliminary papers first noted the failure in the Western world to observe the canonical rule of one bishop in each place. This, however, is something we have all been lamenting for the last hundred years. Then it rightly commended the establishment of an Episcopal Synaxis in each area of the Diaspora; but this is something already decided at the Pan-Orthodox Conference in 2009. Otherwise the preliminary paper, and the eventual resolution adopted at Crete, said nothing that was new.

In general, it has to be admitted that the six preliminary ‘position papers’ discussed at Crete were somewhat conservative in spirit; and the emendations adopted at the Council —which were not extensive—served for the most part to reinforce the conservative character of the documents.

Overloaded though the agenda was at Crete, there were a number of grave problems in today’s Orthodox Church about which the Council said nothing. As already noted, it did not consider autocephaly. The question of the Calendar was not raised. Probably this was wise, for there was little that the Council could have done about this, since it is unlikely that Churches following the Old Calendar, such as Russia, would agree to introduce the New. Any such attempt would probably lead to schism.

Nothing was said about the manner of receiving converts into the Orthodox Church. There is a curious discrepancy in present-day Orthodox practice.3 Since the eighteenth century the Church of Russia has generally received Roman Catholic proselytes simply by confession of faith and absolution, without requiring chrismation or (still less) rebaptism [this was in practice before the twentieth century; it has not been the practice in the Russian Church after the reinstitution of patriarchy in the early twentieth century.—O.C.]. On the other hand, the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia (ROCOR), which since 2007 has been in full communion with the Moscow Patriarchate, frequently rebaptizes converts, including Roman Catholics. A similar practice exists elsewhere in the Orthodox Church, notably on Mount Athos. Where baptism is required, it is not said to be ‘conditional’.

Now this is clearly not simply a matter of administrative practice, but raises a point of doctrine. It involves the question: Do non-Orthodox Churches possess a valid sacrament? Within Orthodoxy there are some, in both the Greek and Slav Churches, who maintain that outside the visible limits of the Orthodox Church there is no divine grace and no valid sacraments. They appeal for support to the decision taken by the Eastern Patriarchs (apart from Antioch) in 1755.4 This, however, is by no means the universal opinion within Orthodoxy. There are others, such as Fr Georges Florovsky in his well-known article, ‘The Limits of the Church’, first published in 1933,5 who argue that the charismatic and canonical boundaries of the Church do not exactly coincide. For myself I find it literally incredible that the Pope should be considered not merely a layman but an unbaptized pagan. Of course, much depends on what is meant by ‘valid’. I had hoped that the Crete Council would formally revoke the 1755 decision, and would decree that all converts, already baptized in the name of the Trinity with the use of water, should be received neither by rebaptism nor yet by simple profession of faith with absolution but by chrismation. In this way a uniform practice throughout Orthodoxy would be secured. But regrettably on this matter the Cretan delegates remained, in the words of the Akathist Hymn, ‘dumb as fishes’. The matter was not discussed.

Further issues ignored in Crete, although subject to vehement controversy in the non-Orthodox West, were the ministry of women in the Church and the practice of so-called ‘same sex marriage’.

So how are we to assess the Council of Crete? After such lengthy preparations, what did we actually achieve? Perhaps the Crete Council is best regarded, not as an isolated happening, a one-off event, but as the beginning of a process, as the first in a series of such meetings. At Crete Patriarch Daniel of Romania proposed that there should be a Holy and Great Council every seven years; and he offered on behalf of the Romanian Church to be the host at the next such gathering. This last is certainly a vital point, for Holy and Great Councils are costly occasions, and we do not have a Christian Emperor to cover the expenses. Surprisingly the Crete Council dispersed without making a decision when and where the next Holy and Great Council was to be held, and no continuation committee was set up. We need to start working now towards a further council, which we hope will be fully pan-orthodox. Preparations for the Cretan assembly lasted, as we have seen, for 114 years, from 1902 to 2016. Shall we have to wait for another 114 years before there will be a sequel?

Fortunately at Crete there was little or no political interference. For the future let us erect a placard: Politicians keep out! Admittedly in the Byzantine era the Christian Emperors played a prominent role the Ecumenical Councils. But Putin is not the Emperor Constantine, nor is Poroshenko the Emperor Justinian.

The most important thing about the Crete Council, as we have said, was that it actually met. Subsequent Councils, so we hope, can deal with the matters that were not examined at Crete. What the Crete Council has done is to reaffirm the synodical spirit of Orthodoxy, i ts conciliar ethos. And for this we are grateful above all to the leadership and persistence of His All-Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.


Coming now to the subject of primacy—which is of such central importance in the current Orthodox/Roman Catholic dialogue—the first thing to be said is that synodality and primacy are complementary and interdependent. There is between them, as Metropolitan John Zizioulas has rightly insisted, an ‘inseparable link..6 In ‘Orthodox ecclesiology,’ he writes, can be no such thing as primacy without a council, nor, conversely, can there be a council without a primate.’7 This follows, indeed from the eucharistic nature of the Church. At every concelebration of the Eucharist there is always one who fulfils the role of liturgical president; and in a similar way at every church council—and the council, as we have seen, is basically, a eucharistic event —there is one who acts as president and primate.

Between the primate and his fellow bishops, as Apostolic Canon 34 makes clear,8 there is a reciprocal relationship. The bishops are not to act without the primate, nor the primate without the bishops. There is between the two what may be termed co-responsibility and differentiated interdependence. And what is the chief function of primacy? It is to promote mutual consultation and so to safeguard the unity of the Church. The primate is basically a bridge-builder: In the words of Fr. John Meyendorff, ‘The essential functions of the “first bishop” consist In assuring that a constant consultation and conciliarity takes place among all Orthodox Churches, and that ecclesiastical order (especially local and regional unity of all the Orthodox) be secured.9 Thus the ninth century Eisagoge, after describing the Patriarch of Constantinople as ‘the living and animated icon of Christ’, goes on to affirm that his task is ‘to return all heretics to Orthodoxy and the unity of the Church’, while Canon l 02 of the Council In Trullo states that his vocation is ‘to bring back the lost sheep’.10

Primacy, as Fr. Alexander Schmemann observes, exists in contemporary Orthodoxy in a ‘great variety of existing patterns—from the almost absolute “monarchy” of the Russian patriarch to the more or less nominal primacy of the archbishop of Athens’; this ‘reveals the absence of a common understanding of primacy [in the Orthodox Church], or of a constant canonical theory of it’.11 As Archdeacon John Chryssavgis admits, ‘The truth is that we do not really have a developed doctrine or—more correctly—a defined apology for the concept of primacy.12 While the Patriarchate of Moscow agrees with the Ecumenical Patriarchate that Constantinople holds the first place in the taxis or canonical order of the Orthodox Church, there is no full agreement between them concerning the scope end the practical implications of this ‘first place’. The Grand Logothete Theodore Metochites said in the fourteenth century that the great men of old have expressed everything so perfectly that they have left nothing further for us to say. But at any rate as regards the question of primacy in the Orthodox Church, this is by no means the case. The last word has not yet been spoken.

The lack of agreement over the primacy of the Ecumenical Throne can be seen, among other things. in the conflicting views concerning the granting of autocephaly. (Perhaps we should not of ‘granting’ but of ‘recognizing’ autocephaly.) Constantinople sees this as the prerogative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; Moscow considers it the responsibility of the Mother Church. This divergence is evident in the disagreement that arose in 1970 concerning the OCA. Moscow, on the grounds that it was the Mother Church of the Russian Metropolia in the USA, granted autocephaly to its daughter, but Constantinople refused to recognize this action. Fortunately on this occasion sacramental communion between the two Patriarchates was not broken. But the extraordinary fact remains that, nearly half a century later, no solution has been found to this disagreement.

More serious is the conflict that has arisen in 2018 over Ukraine. The Patriarchate of Constantinople granted a tomos of autocephaly to the schismatic groups in Ukraine, to the so-called ‘Kievan Patriarchate’ under Philaret Densisenki and to the so-called ‘Autocephalous Church’ under Metropolitan Makary. Rejecting this decision, Moscow retains under its jurisdiction the portion of Ukrainian Orthodoxy that is headed by Metropolitan Onufry, which contains in fact considerately more parishes than the other two groups together. As a result Moscow has taken the decision to break communion with Constantinople, although the latter has not so far retaliated, but seeks to maintain full communion with Russia. Several of the other Orthodox Churches have urged that this breach between Moscow and Constantinople should be resolved at a pan-Orthodox level, either by reconvening the Crete Synod or by summoning a special synaxis of all the primates of the worldwide Orthodox Church.

With all due respect to the two Patriarchates, many of us are disturbed by the actions of both parties in this complex and unhappy dispute. While the Ecumenical Patriarchate sees itself as the Mother Church of Ukraine, it has to be acknowledged that for more than 330 years Ukraine has formed an integral part of the Russian Church. This is a fact of history, and, as Aristotle remarks, ‘Even God cannot change the past.’13 At the same time, while reservations can be expressed concerning the policy of Constantinople, there is reason also to be disquieted by the decision of Moscow to break communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In the words of Archbishop Anastasios of Albania, with specific reference to the crisis in Ukraine, ‘It is unthinkable that the Divine Eucharist, the mystery par excellence of the infinite love and utter humiliation of Christ, could be used as a weapon against another Church… However serious they may be, the accumulated questions of jurisdictions on no account may constitute a cause for a Schism of Orthodoxy, anywhere in the world.’14 Alas! What Archbishop Anastasios has termed ‘unthinkable’ is exactly what has in fact happened.

It has been said by the Fathers that to start a schism is worse than to commit murder. Schisms are easy to instigate but hard to heal. For seventy-five years, from 1870 until 1945, there was a schism between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Bulgaria; and the cause was precisely the question of autocephaly. Let us pray that the present schism between the second and the third Rome will not last for three-quarters of a century.

The inability of the worldwide Orthodox Church to reach agreement over the OCA and, more recently, over Ukraine has led some—particularly Roman Catholics—to suggest that what Orthodoxy needs is a greatly strengthened primacy at the universal level. Personally I am unenthusiastic about such an argument. If we are to develop further our understanding of primacy, this should not be simply for negative reasons, as a solution to particular problems, but it should be inspired by a positive vision of the reality of the Church. Let us not be reactive but proactive.

Before leaving the topic of primacy, let us emphasize one basic point, that applies not only to the exercise of primatial authority but to every level of ecclesial ministry. When the apostles disputed about who should have the first place, Jesus rebuke them: You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It should not be so among you (Matt. 20:25-26). Christ is entirely unambiguous: ‘Not so among you!’ The exercise of authority within the Church is to be utterly different from that which prevails in civil organizations. As a Kingdom not of this world—Eucharistic, Pentecostal, eschatological—the Church is unique. She is never to be assimilated to models of power and government prevailing in the fallen world around us. The bishop is not a feudal overlord or an elected parliamentary representative. The chief bishop or primate is neither a dictator nor a constitutional monarch nor the chairman of a board of directors.

Having stated what ecclesial authority is not, Jesus then goes on to specify what it is. It should not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant (diakonos)… even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:26-28). Such is the true meaning of primacy. The first shall be the last. Power, says Christ, means service; exousia signifies diakonia. The perspective has to be reversed, the pyramid stood upon its head. All genuine primacy is kenotic; the primate is the servant of all. Among the titles applied to the Pope, the one that appeals most immediately to the Orthodox is servus servorum Dei, ‘the servant of the servants of God’. The same title can be applied to every primate in the Church. And if the primate’s vocation is to serve others, then his ministry involves sacrifice and even martyrdom, outward or inward: he may be called to ‘give his life’, as was done by Christ. Above all the primate carries out his ministry in a spirit of love. As Fr. John Behr and Archdeacon John Chryssavgis have rightly said, ‘Primacy presides in kenotic love.’15

The aged woman and the uncompleted tower

Among the richly symbolic visions to be found in The Shepherd of Hermes, there are two which express in a striking way the two contrasting aspects of the Church. First, Hermas sees the Church as a venerable woman of great age. ‘And why is she so old?’ he asks; and he is told, ‘Because she was created before everything else; and because of her the world was framed.’ After that, Hermas is shown a great tower, to which fresh stones are being continually added.16

Such is the paradoxical character of the mystery and miracle of the Church. In the words of Fr. Alexander Schmemann, ‘The Church, which by her near nature belongs to the aeon, to the Kingdom of the age to come, abides yet in history, in time, in “this world”. She is in statu patriae, but also in statu viae. She is fullness, but she is also mission.’17 The Church is old yet young, unchanging yet ever new. She is plentitude and completion, eternal, preexistent, but at the same time she is dynamically caught up in the ever-evolving movement of history, implicated unreservedly in a process of adaptation, renewal and growth. She is transcendent yet fragile. Stressing these two aspects, both the aged woman and the uncompleted tower, and borrowing a phrase from Plato,18 Fr Georges Florovsky describes the Church as ‘the living image of eternity within time’19 she is the ‘image of eternity’, yet she is a ‘living’ image, an ‘image in time’.

If, during our reflections on synodality and primacy, we keep in view these two aspects of the Church, contrasting yet complementary, we shall not wander from the true path.

A video recording of the full address can be found here.

1 Paul Valliere, ‘The Ethical Reality of Councils’, In Chryssavgis, Primacy in the Church, vol. 1, p. 159.

2 For Joachim III’s 1902 Encyclical, see Constantin G. Patelos (ed.), The Orthodox Church in the Ecumenical Movement: Documents and Statements 1902- 1975 (Geneva: World Council of Churches, 1978), pp. 27-33; for the Russian reply, see Athelstan Riley (ed.), Birbeck and the Russian Church (London/New York: SPCK/Macmillan, 1917), pp. 247-57, especially p.248.

3 See Kallistos ware, ‘The rebaptism of Heretics in the Orthodox Canonical Tradition’, In Andrew P. Roach and James R. Simpson (ed.), Heresy and the Making of European Culture: Medieval and Modern Perspectives (Ashgate: Fernham, 2013), pp. 31-50.

4 See ‘A Constitution of the Holy Church of Christ [A.D. 1756] defending the Holy Baptism given from God, and spitting upon the Baptism of the heretics which are otherwise administered’, In William Paimer, Dissertations on Subjects Relating to the “Orthodox” or “Eastern-Catholic” Communion (London: Joseph Masters, 1853), pp. 199-202. The correct date of this decree is 1755.

5 Originally published in Church Quarterly Review, vol. 117, no. 233, pp.177-31; reprinted, under the title ‘The Boundaries of the Church’, In Richard S. Haugh (ed.), The Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, vol. 13. Ecumenism I, A Doctrinal Approach (Vaduz: Buchervertriebsanstalt, 1989), pp. 36-45. Haugh has combined the original text in Church Quarterly Review with additional material by Florovsky, translated from the Russian.

6 In John Chryssavgis (ed.), Primacy in the Church. The Office of Primate and the Authority of Councils, vol. 2. Contemporary and Contextual Perspectives (Yonkers, NY: St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 2016), p. 447.

7 ‘Primacy, Ecclesiology, and Nationalism’, In Chryssavgis, Primacy in the Church, vol. 1, p. 301.

8 Apostolic Canon 34 is quoted in full in the Ravenna Statement adopted at the tenth plenary session of the Joint International Commission for the Theological Dialogue between the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church (8-14 October 2007): see §24, In Chryssavgis, Primacy in the Church, vol. 1, p. 314.

9 ‘The Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Twentieth Century’, In Chryssavgis, Primacy in the Church, vol. 1, p. 403.

10 These two texts are quoted by Alexander Rentel, ‘The Canonical Tradition: Universal Primacy in the Orthodox Church’, In Chryssavgis, Primacy in the Church, vol. 2, pp. 573 and 583. On the role of the Pope as ‘the visible sign and guarantor of unity’, see Bishop Dimitrios [Salachas] of Gratianopolis, ‘The Ministry of the Bishop of Rome: From Doctrine to Modes of Exercise’, In Chryssavgis, Primacy in the Church, vol. 2, pp. 587-610, especially pp. 588, 590-2. What is said there about the Pope may be applied mutatis mutandis to the Ecumenical Patriarch.

11 ‘The idea of Primacy in Orthodox Ecclesiology’, In Chryssavgis, Primacy in the Church, vol. 1, p. 340.

12 ‘Reflecting on the Future’, Primacy in the Church, vol. 2, p. 454.

13 Aristotle, Nicomachaen Ethics, book 6 (1139b10-11), quoting the poet Agathon

14 Letter of Archbishop Anastasios of Albania to Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, dated 7 November 2018.

15 Contemporary Ecclesiology and Kenotic Leadership: The Orthodox Church and the Great Council’, Primacy in the Church, vol. 2, p. 914.

16 Vision II, lv, 1; III, II, 4-9.

17 ‘The Idea of Primacy in Orthodox Ecclesiology’, in Chryssavgis, Primacy in the Church, vol. 1, p. 354.

18 Plato, Timaeus 37d.

19 ‘Sobornost: the Catholicity of the Church’, In E. L. Mascall (ed.), The Church of God (London: SPCK, 1935), p. 63; reprinted in Richard S. Haugh (ed.), The Collected Works of Georges Florovsky, vol. 1, Bible, Church, Tradition: An Eastern Orthodox View (Belmong, MA: Nordland, 1972), p. 45.

Thomas6/20/2021 3:36 am
Kallistos Ware has become a Relativist/Modernist i.e. A Liberal under NWO. He has the wrong Zip Code as does Rome and Israel. He has gone the route of Merton. He has lost his mind.
Gary Cox1/22/2019 8:01 pm
That bit about the almost absolute monarchy WAS off base. But we are talking about kallistos Ware. It's sad but not that unusual for someone is weak on the sound teachings of the Church to utter such goofy statements. Look at his OPINIONS of homosexuality and women's ordination in the priesthood. He might not jump up on a stump and hoop and holler about these things but he will ask leading questions that make you feel a bit uneasy.Reading his writings will show it.
Hareul1/21/2019 3:10 am
What on earth is His Eminence Metropolitan Kallistos getting at when he speaks of, "the almost absolute “monarchy” of the Russian patriarch" and "the more or less nominal primacy of the archbishop of Athens'"? If anything, it is patriarch Bartholomew that is acting like a tyrannical "absolute monarch", who seems to thing that it's his God-given right to lord over those well beyond the borders of his "kingdom". He has turned the Synod of his autocehphalous Church into an echo chamber, so it's no wonder that he fails to grasp the extent of the outrage within the Church. And if the primacy of archbishop of Athens is "more or less nominal", the reason for that, too, leads back to Constantinople.
Almedha M.1/18/2019 7:00 am
Anthony, AGREED.
Joseph Bell1/18/2019 5:26 am
Editor: You did not disappoint me, as I am only interested in the truth. As I said, I know nothing. Please explain to me what the date was that the Ecumenical Patriarch broke communion with the Moscow Patriarch when it was under communism.
Editor1/17/2019 3:30 pm
Gary Cox: We don't have the comments open on news articles, only those in the main column. If it is a main column article that does not have a comments link, let us know which one. There may simply be a posting error.
Gary Cox1/17/2019 3:19 pm
There are some articles that I can comment on and some I can't. There is no comment link at the bottom of some articles. Is there a reason for this or could it be my server? Thanks for any help on this and thank you for the Pravaslavie site, Gary
Editor1/17/2019 10:07 am
Joseph Bell: Sorry to disappoint you, but in the early days of Communism, the Ecumenical Patriarch actually supported the Communist government-backed Renovationist church, and told the lawful Patriarch Tikhon that he had to step down. This was a serious betrayal of the Russian Orthodox Church by Constantinople. After that, we simply don't hear much about any support from Constantinople. Greece, yes, but not Istanbul.
Joseph Bell1/17/2019 4:22 am
I also have concluded that another Council, as proposed by the Moscow Patriarchate, should discuss two related topics: The first would be, what are the limits of power of the Patriarch who has primacy? And two, can other Patriarchs grant autocephalous status to a particular church? Unfortunately, I am an American chrismated into the O.C.A., the only autocephalous church not granted it's status by Constantinople, and I know nothing. But I do know that the Russian Church Abroad has it's headquarters in my country, and I know that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has most of it's parishes here as well. I also know that the Ecumenical Patriarch stood by the Russian Church when it endured communism.
John D.1/16/2019 11:24 pm
There is a close relationship between Orthodoxy, the Church and the Divine Eucharist. Orthodoxy is the true faith of the Church and the Divine Eucharist is the true act of the Church. If there is a Church without Orthodoxy and the Eucharist, it is not a Church. If there is Orthodoxy outside the Church and the Divine Eucharist, it is not Orthodoxy. Moreover, if there is DivineEucharist,without Orthodoxy and the Church, it is not the Divine Eucharist. This is why we maintain that outside the Orthodox Church there is no other Church, only heresies. Thus, the return of the heretics to the only true Church, the Orthodox Church, is needed.Met.Hierotheos of Nafpaktos, Entering the Orthodox Church
John1/16/2019 10:14 pm
Apostolic Canons 46,47and50 address the reception of converts:
"The principal canonical basis for the non-recognition of heterodox sacraments is the 46th Apostolic Canon which declares: “We ordain that a bishop, priest, or deacon who has admitted the baptism or sacrifice of heretics be deposed.” These Apostolic Canons, confirmed by the VIth Ecumenical Council (in Trullo) in 692, comprise the foundation of Orthodox canon law. The practice of economy in certain cases is authorized by Canon I of Saint Basil the Great."
On the Reception of the Heterodox
by Archimandrite Placide Deseille
Bob1/16/2019 9:09 pm
The Pan Orthodox Crete Council of 2016 never happened! It was unilateral in its making, which made it collapse before it occurred. It would have been surprising HAD the Russian church attended given the circumstances! The problem is that no ecclesial structure exists for straightening out the current organizational confusion that exists throughout world Orthodoxy today. Bart gets no credit for forging ahead with that meeting. The idea of Primacy as it applies to Constantinople (or any other) is a flawed concept destined to result in what we see today because the patriarchs are not equal, or they would be consulted as such. In every case Bart fails for the same reason - he is above all else.
Gary Cox1/16/2019 9:05 pm
Also, the insinuation that we need Roman Catholics to advise us about the OCA and Ukraine is really stretching reality out of shape. Unless Mr. Ware wants all to join together into one big happy fuzzy family regardless of beliefs.
John1/16/2019 6:25 pm
So according to Bishop Kallistos, and the Albanian archbishop, Moscow is using the Eucharist as a weapon against Constantinople??? This right here - "At the same time, while reservations can be expressed concerning the policy of Constantinople, there is reason also to be disquieted by the decision of Moscow to break communion with the Ecumenical Patriarchate." Excuse me, but "reservations"? Why should there be "reason to be disquieted"? Bartholomew has committed a violent act against the Church - and Moscow reacted in a canonical and responsible manner. Does Kallistos Ware expect Met. Onuphry to also remain in communion with Bartholomew and the new schismatic structure created by him?
Gary Cox1/16/2019 3:51 pm
Another point. While it is true that Christ talked to Samaritans and sinners it is also true that he let us know that at some point we have to walk away from some people ( Matthew 18: 15-17 and Matt. 10:11-15 and Mark 6:10-11 and Luke9:4-5 ). A similar thing happened in 1054 when the Bishops of the world had to stand up against a power play of an errant Bishop. Bartholomew is stomping on any Bishop that will let him. I pray that God grant our Patriarchs wisdom and strength.
Gary Cox 1/16/2019 2:46 pm
There are several issues with this article. A few of them are (1) the council of Crete- it was done in such a strong arm fashion that many believe it to be a robber council. (2) Baptism outside the Church- even protestants who say they believe in the Bible don't admit that the Bible shows people in the Church performing the Baptisms with no examples at all of someone outside the Church having authority to do so.(3) Ware's love for the new calendar seems pretty obvious which has caused discord in the Church.(4)Primacy in the Church- if we are to have a one man strong arm ruler then Bartholomew needs to submit to the pope which won't happen. These are just a few of the issues.there are more.
Jesse Dominick1/16/2019 1:10 pm
Anthony, how is it that you so consistently miss the point?
Bohdan1/16/2019 12:40 pm
Anthony, even our Lord Jesus spoke to Samaritans, but you preach a non-dialogue?
Anthony1/16/2019 9:11 am
Hi all! I greet you! The only thing I sadly although unsurprisingly got from our beloved Bishop Timothy's speech was a good dose of English diplomacy. You know. The way the englesi love to paint all things in 50 different shades of grey. Nothing is black and white with them. As to his quip that ''dialogue'' with the heretics is a pressing issue. No it is not. We have nothing to say to them. And his beloved Crete Council was not free of political interference as he claims. The phanar is run from Washington and the Council was infested with CIA spies allegedly for ''security'' purposes. Doesn't this site have anything better to publish these days.
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