Crosses on a Greek Orthodox church © Elisabeth Schomaker (KNA)
The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople has recognized the head of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, according to media reports, removing an obstacle to the pan-Orthodox council scheduled for June.
As the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported Friday, citing church circles, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, after a long dispute, recognized the head of the Orthodox Church of the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Metropolitan Rastislav, who had already been elected by a national council in January 2014. Accordingly, there is now agreement that Rastislav may represent his church next week in Switzerland at the Council preparatory meeting of the heads of the 14 Orthodox national churches. The Pan-Orthodox Council in June 2016 is the first since over 1.200 years.
Council to begin at Pentecost
In contrast to the Russian Orthodox Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate disputed the legitimacy of Rastislav’s election because of alleged formal errors. Constantinople also accused him of insulting the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. for referring to him and other clergy as "little Greeks". In the meantime, Rastislav apologized for this, according to the Greek media. In December, the head of the foreign office of the Russian Orthodox Church, Metropolitan Hilarion, had said that Constantinople’s refusal to recognize Ratislav stood in the way of the success of the pan-Orthodox Council.
The council is scheduled to meet on Pentecost under the presidency of Bartholomew I. in Istanbul will begin. It should strengthen the unity of Orthodoxy and determine its future course – and will thus also have consequences for the dialogue with Catholics and Protestants. According to the Orthodox count, it would be the first council since the year 787. Preparations for the council began more than 50 years ago.
Preparations at the end of January in Geneva
The leaders of all 14 independent Orthodox churches are expected to meet at a meeting from 21. until 28. January at the Orthodox Center of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Chambesy near Geneva to give final green light to council. It was specially transferred from Istanbul to Switzerland because Moscow Patriarch Cyril I. declined a trip to Istanbul because of political tensions between Turkey and Russia.
A commitment for his participation in the preparatory meeting in Chambesy is still pending. A spokesman for the Russian Orthodox Church justified this a few days ago by saying that the Moscow Patriarchate had not yet received an invitation.