His Eminence Geron Archbishop Demetrios of America (Ecumenical Patriarchate) transmitted a video message in which he calls the Holy and Great Council of the Ortododox Church “a gift from God”. We present below the text of the message:
The Almighty and Merciful God in His ineffable wisdom and unlimited love is offering to us a great, truly unique, and most holy gift. This is the Holy and Great Council of all Orthodox Autocephalous Churches to be convened in Crete, Greece, from June 19 to June 26 this year.
This is an amazing gift from God for many reasons. Allow me just briefly present four of them.
First, this is a Council or Synod of representatives of all fourteen Autocephalous Orthodox Churches of the world. The Heads or Prokathimenoi of all fourteen Churches will be present, namely the Ecumenical Patriarch as presiding hierarch and then the Patriarchs of Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Moscow, Serbia, Romania, Bulgaria, Georgia, and the Archbishops of Cyprus, Greece, Poland, Albania and Czech and Slovak Republics.
In addition to the Prokathimenoi, each Autocephalous Church will be represented by twenty-four bishops and nine priests and lay people. After centuries and centuries, this is the first time that a Council with such an impressive composition takes place. This is indeed a great gift from God.
Second, this is a great gift from God because the Council will present a very powerful witness of the unity universally existing in the Orthodox Church. Hundreds of Orthodox hierarchs, priests and lay people from all over the world will be together for a full week making a vivid reality the ardent prayer of the Lord Jesus Christ during the Last Supper. The Lord prayed: “I do not pray for these only, that is the Holy Apostles, but also for those who believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one, even as Thou, Father, are in Me, and I in Thee; that they also may be in Us one, that the world may believe that Thou hast sent Me. And the glory which Thou hast given Me I have given them, that they may be one even as We are one: I in them, and Thou in Me; that they may be become perfectly one, and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me, and hast loved them even as Thou hast loved Me.” (John 17)
Third, the upcoming Holy and Great Council of all Autocephalous Orthodox Churches will have a tremendous opportunity to deal with issues that constitute problems or challenges for the Orthodox Church living in the contemporary world. The purpose of the Council is not to deal with all issues confronting the universal Orthodoxy. The Council will deal with a number of them carefully selected from a list composed fifty-five years ago, in 1961, in Rhodes Greece. At that time, a Pan-Orthodox meeting was convened in Rhodes by Patriarch Athenagoras, which ascertained the need for a Pan-Orthodox Council.
The upcoming Council in Crete will, by the grace of God, start a vital process of creating Council meetings, which will have the opportunity and the proper conditions to examine, analyse and plan the decisive steps to confront challenges and unresolved issues.
Fourth, finally, the Holy and Great Council of all Autocephalous Orthodox Churches in Crete will become a visible and palpable manifestation of enormous spiritual power. The world will certainly become aware through the Council of the existence in our contemporary society of approximately 280 million to 300 million Orthodox people. This is clearly a significant number.
There is even a major importance in the fact that these millions of people are heavily concentrated in several places but also spread all over the world. Thus, the Council will have an impact on what happens today in our world. The Orthodox witness of the Gospel will increase its availability and accessibility to millions of people, because it will be largely and universally known to those who are far-off and to those who are near.
We are eagerly looking forward to the convening of the Council in Crete as an extraordinary gift from God, not only for Orthodoxy, but for the entire world.