Leaders of the Orthodox Church have concluded a meeting in Geneva, Switzerland in preparation for a historic pan-Orthodox Council scheduled to take place later in the year.

The meeting, known as a synaxis, took place from January 21st to 28th and was chaired by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, spiritual leader of the Orthodox world. It brought together eleven primates of the autonomous Orthodox churches, with two others – Patriarch John X of Antioch and Metropolitan Sawa of Poland – unable to attend for health reasons and Archbishop Ieronymos of Greece absent for personal reasons. All three leaders were instead represented by officially authorised delegates.

Preparations for the so-called Great and Holy Council of the Orthodox Church have been 40 years in the making, after the agenda was first formulated by the Pre-Conciliar Pan-Orthodox Conference, in Geneva in November 1976. That original agenda included the issue of Orthodox relations with other Christian Churches and the question of a common date for Easter, as well as discussions regarding the internal structure and practice within the Orthodox world.


Please find below the text of the Communique issued by the Secretariat of the Sacred Synaxis


Chambésy, 21-28, 2016

At the invitation of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the Synaxis of Primates of the Orthodox Autocephalous Churches took place at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy, Geneva, from 21st to 28th January, 2016. The following Primates attended:

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew

Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria

Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem

Patriarch Kirill of Moscow

Patriarch Irinej of Serbia

Patriarch Daniel of Romania

Patriarch Neophyte of Bulgaria

Patriarch Ilia of Georgia

Archbishop Chrysostomos of Cyprus

Archbishop Anastasios of Albania

Archbishop Rastislav of the Czech Lands and Slovakia

The following Primates were unable to attend: Their Beatitudes Patriarch John X of Antioch and Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland, for health reasons, and Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece, for personal reasons. Nevertheless, all three were represented by official delegations of their Churches. 

The Primates of the Orthodox Churches convened to finalize the texts for the Holy and Great Council. In the framework of the Synaxis, on Sunday, 24th January, a Divine Liturgy was held at the Holy Stavropegic Church of St. Paul. Along with the Ecumenical Patriarch, who presided, Their Beatitudes and Heads of the delegations of the Orthodox Churches concelebrated the Liturgy, with the exception of the Head of the delegation of the Patriarchate of Antioch.

During the Synaxis, whose sessions were held in the apostolic spirit of “speaking the truth in love” (Eph. 4.15), in concord and understanding, the Primates affirmed their decision to convene the Holy and Great Council. The Council will be held at the Orthodox Academy of Crete from June 16th to 27th, 2016. To this end, the Primates humbly invoke the grace and blessing of the Holy Trinity and fervently invite the prayers of the fullness of the Church, clergy and laity, for the period leading to and the sessions of the Holy and Great Council.

The items officially approved for referral to and adoption by the Holy and Great Council are: The Mission of the Orthodox Church in the Contemporary World, The Orthodox Diaspora, Autonomy and its Manner of Proclamation, The Sacrament of Marriage and its Impediments, The Significance of Fasting and its Application Today, and Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World. By decision of the Primates, all approved documents will be published.

The Primates also discussed and determined the establishment of a Panorthodox Secretariat, the by-laws of the Council, the participation of non-Orthodox observers in the opening and closing sessions, and the budgetary costs related the Council.

Moreover, the Primates expressed their support for the persecuted Christians of the Middle East and their ongoing concern for the abduction of the two Metropolitans, Paul Yazigi of the Patriarchate of Antioch and Gregorios Yohanna Ibrahim of the Syriac Archdiocese.

The proceedings of the Synaxis of the concluded on Wednesday evening, January 27th, 2016, with the closing address by its President, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

At the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambésy-Geneva, 27th January, 2016

From the Secretariat of the Sacred Synaxis

Source: Vatican Radio