Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate postponed the Council: history of Vatopedi 1932
Author: Natallia Vasilevich
Once Pan-Orthodox Synod, convened for 19th of June, at Pentecost failed. Will it happen again?
In 1930 Meeting of the Preparatory Commission of the Holy Orthodox Churches was convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch Photios at the Sacred Great Monastery of Vatopedi at the Holy Mountain, 8-23 June. Delegations of the following local churches took part in the meeting:
- Ecumenical Patriarchate
- Serbian Church
- Romanian Church
- Church of Greece
- Church of Poland
- Church of Cyprus delegated to be represented by the Ecumenical Patriarchate (letter of Archbishop Cyril of Cyprus to the Ecumenical Patriarch Photios from 20 May 1930).
According to some testimonies, there was also unofficial representation from the Bulgarian Church (Hieromoine David, Irenikon #8, 1931, p. 72-73).
As the result of the works of the Comission the following 17 topics of agenda were defined:
1. The issue of the Russian Church. The preparatory inter-Orthodox meeting inscribes this issue the first of the catalogue of topics of the pro-Synod, and ask his all-Holiness that he makes possible before the convocation of the pro-Synod the representation in which-ever way of the Russian Sister-Church by delegates either from inside, either from outside of Russia.
2. Closer relationship and contact of the Orthodox churches between each other and measures in this sense, between them exchange of students between the Orthodox churches and reciprocal visit of delegations of clergymen, theology professors and preachers in order of fuller contact; better cooperation of the Orthodox churches in spiritual, moral and social matters for the well-being of the Orthodox peoples(nations).
3. Education of clergy theological and pastoral and necessity of its organisation under immediate supervision of the church and deleting all tendencies which are against Church.
4. Examination of the present situation of the Orthodox Church in America and of the ways of its therapy and improvement.
5. Finding of ways of reestablishing Orthodox Eastern monasticism in its ancient beauty and shining by insisting in traditions and monastic rules by renewing the old activity: scientifical, philanthropic, cultural and specially by cultivating the holy arts.
6. Finding ways of cooperation of the Orthodox Churches in order to reject Atheism, and mistaken ideologies: Masonism, Theosophy and Spiritism, etc.
7. Relations of the Orthodox churches to heterodox churches on the East and on the West:
a. Relations in spirit of love, which following the Apostle is hoping everything with the heterodox churches (Armenians, Copts, Abyssinians, Chaldeans, Jacobites, Old-Catholic, Anglicans), which are trying to come closer to the Orthodox Church, and don’t make proselytism among the Orthodox.
b. Relations of precaution and defence agains heterodox, who are practicing proselytism and try in any way to damage the Orthodox Church, it means: Roman-Catolicism – Uniatism, Protestantism – Methodism, Baptists, Chiliasm, and so on.
8. Examinations of the issue which heretics and schismatics will be received in the Orthodox church by the baptism, which are received by Chrismation, and which by simple confession of faith.
9. Definition of conditions of proclamation and recognition of of Autocephalous Church, and definition of the number of the generally recognised today Autocephalous Churches in order of better canonical reciprocal (mutual) communion and full (aproskopton) participation in pan-Orthodox gathering and Synod. And in the same way definition of conditions of recognition of the church as autonomous.
10. Codification of the holy canons and canonical decisions to be submitted in time to the Ecumenical Synod.
11. Examination of the actual practice of the local Churches about impediments of wedding, about reasons for divorce, and about legal procedure of them. Also examinations of the way by which if it’s possible should be reached similar procedure in the whole Orthodox Church
12. Organisation of spiritual courts as possible in similar way in all Orthodox church, establishment of ecclesiastical system of justice.
13. Examination of the way of election of bishops, and specially of Primates of Autocephalous Orthodox Churches more corresponding to the holy canons.
14. Examination of the issue of calendar in connection with the decision of the 1st Ecumenical Synod about the Easter date and finding way to re-establish concordance of the churches about this issue.
15. Uniform if it’s possible formulation of Typicon according to holy Tradition.
16. Examinations and finding of ways by which the Orthodox Christian culture can be strengthen among the Orthodox nations in all its dimensions.
17. Examination of ways of sustaining and promoting traditional byzantine art in its different forms, it means: church music, iconography, architecture and the art of holy vestments and utensil.
(Translation of the Catalogue from Greek according to decisions of the 14th session including amendment of 15th session, Πρακτικά της προκαταρκτικής επιτροπής των αγίων ορθοδόξων εκκλησιών της συνελθούσης εν τη εν Αγίω Όρει Ιερά Μονή Μεγίστη, Μόνη Βατοπεδίου : (8-23 Ιουνίου 1930), pp. 143-146).
At the Meeting was decided to hold pro-Synod in 1932, which was convened by the Ecumenical Patriarch Photios (letter to the Orthodox Churches 7 February 1931 #226 and 3rd September #226) for 19th of June, during the Pentecostal period, at the Sacred Great Monastery of Vatopedi at the Holy Mountain.
But on 2 of June Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, due to inability of several churches to take part in the pro-Synod, decided to cancel it and sent to the Sister Churches the following telegram:
“Some of the most Holy Churches, in spite of their strong desire, are unable to take part in the pre-Synod, because of the circumstances. We think that as a result of this, it [pre-Synod] needs to be postponed” .
Once decided to be convened for 19th of June, pan-Orthodox pro-Synod failed, being postponed just two weeks before. It took several decades to restart pre-conciliar process, and again just two weeks before we are at risk, that the Holy and Great Council could be postponed. However, this time the Synod of those in the City of the Ecumenical Patriarchate insisted that Council takes place as decided. Will the history repeat?
Photo: ‘Ορθοδοξία, Ετος Ε’, 30 Αυγούστου 1930, Τευχος 56ον.