FAQs of the Holy and Great Council
- What is the Holy and Great Council?
The Holy and Great Council (the Council) is the meeting of all fourteen autocephalous (self-governed) Churches of the Orthodox Church.
- Who convenes the Council?
The Council is convened by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. As “First Among Equals,” the Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch retains certain responsibilities unique to his office for the benefit of ecclesiastical order and for the facilitation of Orthodox unity.
- Who presides over the Council?
In keeping with the tradition of honor and historical practice, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will preside over the Council.
- Who will attend?
All fourteen autocephalous Orthodox Churches will be present at the Council. The Primates of each Church will lead a delegation of up to twenty-four bishops and six advisors.
- Why twenty-four bishops in each delegation?
For pastoral and logistical reasons, attendance by all Orthodox hierarchy throughout the world is unfeasible. The number twenty-four is based on the prophecy of the elders seated around the throne of Christ described in the Book of Revelation, Chapter 4.
- How will decision be taken during the Council?
All decisions of the Council will be taken by a process of consensus. During the Council, each Church will cast a single vote for each issue discusses; however, any bishop that does not agree with the ultimate decision of his particular Church may have his opinion and reservations noted in the official minutes of the Council.
- What will be discussed?
The official agenda includes six discussion items, finalized at the Synaxis of the Primates convened in Chambésy, Switzerland in January 2016:
- The Orthodox Diaspora (the question of how to organize the Orthodox Church in historically non-Orthodox lands)
- Autonomy and the Means by which It is Proclaimed
- The Sacrament of Marriage and Its Impediments
- The Importance of Fasting and Its Observance Today
- Relations of the Orthodox Church with the Rest of the Christian World
- The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World
- What is the purpose of the Council?
The purpose of the Holy and Great Council is to resolve ecclesiastical irregularities (items a and b), to speak on pastoral concerns affecting Orthodox Christians (items c and d), and to reaffirm the relevance and contributions of the Orthodox Church within the global society (items e and f).
- Why Crete?
Initial plans were for the Council to convene in the Church of Haghia Irene (Holy Peace of God), the location of the Second Ecumenical Council in 381, in present-day Istanbul. However, due to the current geopolitical environment of the region, certain Primates requested that the Council take place outside of Turkey. Since Crete is within the jurisdiction of Constantinople and lies in an Orthodox country, the Academy of Crete was deemed a suitable venue.
- What is the significance of the Council?
The Council will address matters concerning the life of the Church in the contemporary world in the hope of articulating a universal voice regarding such issues. The mere fact that a meeting of such caliber is to convene is significant in itself. While there have been many councils throughout the centuries, there has never been a council with such a broad representation of Churches and bishops.
- Is this an Ecumenical Council?
This is not an Ecumenical Council. It is a “Great Council” inasmuch as the entire the Orthodox Church will be represented. An Ecumenical Council is always recognized in retrospect by the conscience of the Church.