Reached consensus on the main issues of the granting of autocephaly, stated in the ROC

© RIA Novosti / Grigory to Castinplace in photomontage parishioners of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Moscow Patriarchate at the Parliament building in Kiev. 18 may 2017Reached consensus on the main issues of the granting of autocephaly, stated in the ROC© RIA Novosti / Grigory to Castinplace the image Bank

The Orthodox world was the center of attention of politicians and the media in connection with the initiative of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko on the establishment of «one national Church». The Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople declared its intention to discuss the appeal he addressed to Poroshenko with all the local Orthodox churches. There is now a common procedure for granting ecclesiastical independence — autocephaly — and what they say about this mechanism the Church canons, has explained RIA Novosti, the expert of the Russian Orthodox Church in this region, the Deputy head of the Department for external Church relations (DECR) of the Moscow Patriarchate Archpriest Nikolai Balashov.

— Indeed, the conditions and procedure of granting autocephaly is not explicitly spelled out in the decisions of the Ecumenical councils (their decisions are fundamental and are a priority for all churches. — Approx. ed.).

So when in Rhodes in 1961, began preparations for all-Orthodox Council, the topic of common consent were included in the catalogue of issues for discussion. To the practical consideration of the local Orthodox Church began at the meeting of the inter-Orthodox preparatory Commission (IPC) in Chambesy, near Geneva, in 1993.

By this time eight local Orthodox churches presented their reports on the topic «Autocephaly and ways of providing it». The diversity of opinions it was possible to distinguish two conceptually different positions.

Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem Patriarchate and the Greek Orthodox Church stressed the priority of competence of the Ecumenical councils and local councils of the Patriarchate of Constantinople granting autocephaly.

Moscow, Romanian and Bulgarian Patriarchates, as well as the Polish Orthodox Church came from the independent right of each Autocephalous Church to grant autocephaly to its canonical part.

However, the discussion failed to agree on one thing: there is no autocephaly without the will of mother Church, i.e. the local Orthodox Church, which currently belongs to the part of her that wants to obtain autocephaly. And there is no pan-Orthodox autocephaly without the consent of which «is expressed by the unanimity of the Councils of the Autocephalous churches». The achieved complete unanimity of the churches in relation to these principles remained to arrange the details of the process.

— What details in the first place is it?

In view of the importance of the issue, which is now in connection with the known events has become particularly acute, will cause extensive quotation from bears the signatures of representatives of all the recognized Autocephalous churches of the outcome document of the IASC 1993:

«3. It was observed full coincidence of views on the necessary initial conditions of the proclamation of autocephaly of any Local Church, i.e., with respect to the consent and actions of the Mother Church, ensure the pan-Orthodox consensus and the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other Autocephalous Orthodox Churches in the proclamation of autocephaly. According to this:
a) the mother Church, receiving a request from a subordinate to her Church in the region, assess the ecclesiological, canonical and pastoral background of the granting of autocephaly. If the local Council as the Supreme ecclesiastical authority will give their consent, he submits the proposal of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to search for pan-Orthodox consensus, and inform other local Autocephalous Churches.
b) the Ecumenical Patriarchate, according to the pan-Orthodox attitudes of the Patriarchal message brings to the public everything related to the specific request sought by the pan-Orthodox consensus. Pan-Orthodox consensus expressed in the unanimity of Councils Autocephalous Churches.
C) Expressing the consent of the Mother Church and the pan-Orthodox consensus, the Ecumenical Patriarch officially declares the autocephaly of the Church requesting the publication of the Patriarchal Tomos. Tomos is signed by the Ecumenical Patriarch, and (preferably) the primates of all the Autocephalous Churches, but mandatory for the Primate of the Mother Church.
4. The local Church is proclaimed Autocephalous, is introduced as equal in the fellowship of Orthodox Churches and pan-Orthodox set has all the canonical privileges (diptychs, remembrance, international relations, etc.).
Note. The contents of paragraph will further be seen following the inter-Orthodox Commission, which must find in it a common position of the local Orthodox Churches, thus completing its work on this issue.»

Thus, in full agreement with the fundamental principles had to agree on how it is proclaimed autocephaly granted by mutual agreement of all the local churches: who and how to sign a document.

After that, however, the collaborative process stopped.

— What prevented completely agree on the procedure and finally solve this issue?

After 1993 the Church of Constantinople, the presidency of the IGC, did not hold its meetings for six years, and when such attempt was made in 1999 — prevented the outbreak three years earlier the Estonian Church crisis. The Patriarchate of Constantinople demanded the participation in the meetings along with recognized local churches, the so-called Estonian Apostolic Orthodox Church established canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church as Constantinople autonomy. And the Russian Orthodox Church could not agree.

But subsequently, negotiations of the churches on this issue resumed. What has been achieved?

— It took another nine years before in 2008, the Patriarchate of Constantinople refused the previous requirements. The process of preparing the pan-Orthodox Council resumed.

At the meeting of the IPC in Chambesy in 2009 (I was among the participants this meeting, like all subsequent meetings on the organization of the Council until may 2016) managed to take another step to achieving full consent: was the formula the only remaining item which sixteen years earlier had not brought to the final form. Now it is formulated as:

«3.C) Expressing the consent of the Mother Church and the pan-Orthodox consensus, the Ecumenical Patriarch officially declares the autocephaly of requesting it to the Church by issuing a Tomos of autocephaly. This Tomos of the Ecumenical Patriarch signed and attested to by the signatures in this Beatitude the most Holy primates of the Autocephalous Churches, invited by the Ecumenical Patriarch».

Here further strengthened the emphasis on pan-Orthodox consent as a condition of autocephaly.

However, were not formulated until the end of the «questions about the content of a Tomos (decree. — Approx. ed.) on autocephaly and the way of its signing by the primates», which was transmitted to the next IGC for «surveying the common position of the Churches.»

— Why is the way of the signing of the Tomos of autocephaly is not defined so far?

— The method of signing the Tomos was discussed at the IPC in 2011, but full consensus of the local Orthodox churches it has not been reached. But the consensus of all the recognized Autocephalous churches was the fundamental principle of all previous preparations for all-Orthodox Council.

All the churches agreed to sign the Tomos needs all the primates. Everyone agreed that the signature of the Ecumenical (Constantinople) Patriarch will take first place. But the delegation of the Patriarchate of Constantinople insisted that the signature of the Ecumenical Patriarch, in addition, there must be a special way allocated. In particular, it was proposed to supply it with the word «apophenia» (Greek — «decides»), and the signatures of the primates of other local Orthodox churches — the word «singaporesee» («jointly decide»). The delegation of the Russian Orthodox Church expressed the opinion that Tomos must be approved by the same signatures of the primates of all local Orthodox churches, and the Patriarch of Constantinople, of course, assigned the place of first among equals.

Due to unresolved differences on this, in General, a secondary issue, the autocephaly was not submitted to the pan-Orthodox Council. According to the decision taken in the Meeting of primates which took place in Istanbul in 2014, this matter was further discussed within the newly established Special inter-Orthodox Commission that, in the case of consensus, to be considered at the Council. However, in reality the Commission had not even begun to explore this issue, despite the calls of some churches. So, in 2015, the primates of the Georgian, Serbian and Bulgarian Orthodox churches in correspondence with the Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, argued for the imposition of the theme of autocephaly of the Cathedral.

At a new Meeting of primates which took place in Chambesy in January 2016, the Russian Orthodox Church strongly suggested to finish the little that remained to agree on the question of granting autocephaly to make a final decision on the Cathedral. But the Patriarchate of Constantinople feared that this may lead to delay in convening of the Council.

However, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople assured the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Kirill, that neither the Cathedral, nor after the Constantinople Patriarchate will not take actions associated with the legalization of the schism or the granting of autocephaly in Ukraine. Under this condition, the Russian Church agreed to hold a Council without the consideration of the topic of autocephaly, the Patriarch officially informed all of the primates at the meeting of the Synaxis (Assembly. — Approx. ed.), 24 Jan 2016.

But the Cathedral on Crete did not become Orthodox. It was finally postponed the decision on autocephaly? Or is there hope?

— Unfortunately, in the further preparation of the Council’s reasons beyond the control of the Russian Orthodox Church, was not given sufficient attention to the repeatedly declared the disagreement of the Church of Antioch to participate in it without the prior resolution of the dispute about ecclesiastical jurisdiction in Qatar (Antioch and Jerusalem churches dispute the right of parishes in Qatar. — Approx. ed.), as well as the objections that were put forward by the Georgian and Bulgarian churches. All this has led to the fact that although the Cathedral was held, but did not pan-Orthodox.

But that’s another story. It doesn’t change the fact that on the main issues of autocephaly is on the role of mother Church as the initiator of the process, not necessarily consensus of all the local churches, to Express the unanimity of their Councils, — pan-Orthodox consent, or, in the words of the document, «complete convergence of views» was achieved another quarter of a century ago.