Last Sunday marked six years since the conclusion of the works of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church, which brought together hierarchs of ten of the fourteen autocephalous Orthodox Churches on the island of Crete.
Both before and after the Council, the Patriarch of Romania explained that its works did not focus on liturgical or dogmatic issues but the Orthodox mission in a globalized and secularized world.
Before attending the Holy and Great Council, the Patriarch of Romania asked the monastics and lay faithful of the Romanian Orthodox Church to pray for the enlightenment of the participants.
“Not everyone can participate, but everyone has the responsibility to contribute, advise and pray so that the Holy Spirit, and not a worldly spirit, will guide the works of the future Pan-Orthodox Council,” Patriarch Daniel said in June 2016.
“The greatest and most precious gift of the spiritual life of the Church is the unity of faith, which is expressed in sacramental unity, but also in the missionary and pastoral ministry of the Church carried out today in the world.”
And, “unlike Ecumenical Councils, this is not a council that debates a particular dogma or particular new teaching of faith but shows the need to strengthen us in our faith, spiritual life and the intensification of the Orthodox mission in the world. So, it will be more of a missionary-pastoral council with social implications, not a dogmatic, liturgical council or a council to change the holy canons,” the Patriarch said.
“We are dealing with a world in which atheism is gaining more and more ground, and we must affirm the importance of the Orthodox faith for the salvation of the soul and life in harmony, in the family, in the Church, in society. Therefore, there is a need for a more intense profession of the faith together,” Patriarch Daniel explained.
The proceedings of the Council
Twenty-five hierarchs from Romania participated. The works took place from June 16 to June 26, 2016, preceded by a working committee meeting from June 9 to June 16 to draft the Message of the Holy and Great Council.
Based on this text, the Holy and Great Council formulated the Encyclical of the Holy and Great Council, a complex and final document that gives the key to all adopted documents.
The final texts of the Message and Encyclical were approved at the working session on June 24, 2016. The message’s text was read at the Divine Liturgy celebrated after the Holy and Great Council on All Saints Sunday.
The main themes addressed by the Holy and Great Council included:
Unity of the Orthodox Church and Confession of Faith;
The importance of inter-Christian and inter-religious dialogue;
Natural sciences, technology and the ecological crisis;
Respect for others;
Youth and openness to the world.
Although the Patriarchates of Antioch, Moscow, Bulgaria and Georgia were absent from the proceedings, their comments were incorporated as improvements in the documents presented at the plenary session for amendment and approval.
Significant Romanian contribution to the document on inter-Christian relations
On his return to Romania, Patriarch Daniel said that Orthodox Romanians were appreciated as very active in the works of the Council, and by their presence, they were “witnesses of Romanian Orthodoxy.”
The Romanian Orthodox Church made a necessary clarification in the discussions on the final document on the Relations of the Orthodox Church with the rest of the Christian World, namely the following:
“Non-Orthodox Christian churches and confessions have over time departed from the Orthodox faith of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.”
The Romanian hierarchs insisted on the conviction that Christian unity can be restored only based on the true faith of the Holy Apostles, of the Holy Fathers, expressed by the seven Ecumenical Councils.
“Dialogue with other Christian entities is done first of all to witness to our Orthodox faith and the apostolic and patristic understanding of the Church, to contribute to the rapprochement between Christians, through this highlighting of the eternal values of Orthodoxy,” Patriarch Daniel explained on his return from Crete on June 26, 2016.
Given that our relations with other Christians are inevitable, especially in Western countries where Roman Catholics and Protestants are in the majority, “we must profess the true faith not with confessional hatred, but with humility and Christian love.”
Also, after returning to Romania from the Holy and Great Council, Patriarch Daniel noted:
“I learned more that Orthodoxy is not only beautiful but also dynamic when we work for unity in co-responsibility. We must not blame others but give all our strength, conviction and love to make Orthodoxy known in the world and show the value of synodality.”