By Efi Efthimiou
Last week, the inter-Orthodox consultation took place in Cyprus, before the 11th Assembly of the World Council of Churches. Meeting to be held in Karlsruhe, Germany next September, entitled “The love of Christ leads the world to reconciliation and unity”.
Almost all Orthodox Churches were represented at this great meeting. The Bulgarian Patriarchate and the Georgian Patriarchate were absent.
The meeting took place while the war in Ukraine was raging after the Russian invasion. As expected, the issue of war could only be discussed, especially when an Orthodox country attacks a fellow Orthodox country.
It is particularly important that it was the first time that delegations of all Orthodox countries met, in years. And it was equally important that the meeting was held under the auspices of the World Council of Churches (WCC).
The Russian Church didn’t just have representation. It had the second-largest mission (behind only the “hostess” Church of Cyprus), with six members and was led by Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, the considered Number 2 of the Russian Church.
This afternoon they distributed the text of the conclusions of the World Council of Churches, regarding what was said during the meeting and which was approved by the participants.
Article 24 of the report reads: “During our deliberations, there was an expression of grave concern over the armed conflict in Ukraine that has already claimed many people’s lives. The participants in the meeting have been unanimous in condemning the wars and call upon all the parties involved in the conflicts to do everything within their power for the urgent establishment of peace and for ensuring safety in Ukraine, Russia, Europe, and the whole world. We also condemn systematic campaigns of disinformation that promote divisions and hatred. In this time of great hardships, we are called to lift up fervent prayers to Christ the Savior so that hatred may not take hold of human souls and hearts, but, instead, love and fraternal communion may return to the brotherly peoples in anguish.”
The fact that this paragraph states that the condemnation of war is “unanimous” cannot go unnoticed. And this means that the Russian Church was also condemned, in the presence of Metropolitan Volokolamsk, without any further interpretations.
In recent years, the Patriarchate of Moscow has followed its own strategy that is almost identical to the Kremlin, its members (including Patriarch Kirill and Metropolitan Hilarion) have spoken out against the Ecumenical Patriarch and against all the Primates who have recognized the Orthodox Church of Ukraine of Metropolitan Epifaniy, in the worst possible way and with unacceptable designations for hierarchs.
Will the Orthodox Churches now discuss this through the WCC?
The intrusion at the Patriarchate of Alexandria, the threats of intrusion even in Turkey (Ecumenical Patriarchate’s territory), and the information about the plans for the creation of an “exarchate” in Greece leave no room for misinterpretation of the strategy that follows.
However, last week in Cyprus, something extremely important happened. For the first time in many years, the Orthodox Churches sat at the same table and exchanged views.
But it should not be the only communication platform of the Orthodox Churches, to be an organization like the World Council of Churches.
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has this right, privilege, and “tool”. He is also the one who has the authority to invite all Orthodox to meet and discuss.
And although he convened the Pan-Orthodox Synod of Crete to hear all views with the known Russian efforts to be crowned with failure. But since then many things have happened, and especially a war.
It is the Ecumenical Patriarch who can – and should – try again to put the Orthodox in the face of the consequences of their actions.