Signature to the decision documents of the Pan-Orthodox Council © Sean Hawkey (CBA)
The Orthodox Council in Crete adopted six documents. According to the Council Secretariat, all proposals were approved and signed by all ten delegations present. An overview of the Council's decisions:
Procedure for the autonomy of churches
The canonical regulation on the "autonomy of a national church and the methods of its declaration" is about the limited autonomy of a church within its mother church.
For example, the churches of Estonia and Finland are "autonomous" churches within the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The topic of "autocephaly", i.e. the complete autonomy of a church, on the other hand, was not on the agenda of the Council. No consensus could be reached on a corresponding proposal during the preparation.
Autonomy status, according to the ruling, means the "relative or partial independence of a concrete church territory from the canonical jurisdiction of an autocephalous church" to which it belongs. An autocephalous church may grant autonomous status only to a church located within its geographical ecclesiastical territory. On the territory of the Orthodox diaspora, on the other hand, no autonomous church is to be established except by pan-Orthodox agreement mediated by the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople.
Here we are concerned with the countries dominated by migrants from various Orthodox "mother churches," especially those of Western Europe, North America and Australia. The document spells out the arrangement already made in 2009 by the heads of the 14 Orthodox churches, which, among other things, established regional Orthodox bishops' conferences (such as in Germany). The regulation, which was initially only provisional, has proved its worth, according to widespread opinion.
The document divides the worldwide diaspora into twelve regions, namely North and Central America; South America; Australia, New Zealand and Oceania; Britain and Ireland; France; Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg; Austria; Italy and Malta; Switzerland and Liechtenstein; Germany; the Scandinavian countries except Finland; Spain and Portugal. Part of the resolution is also a model set of rules of procedure for the regional bishops' conferences.
Marriage and barriers to marriage
Unanimously, the Orthodox Church rejects the marriage of Orthodox with non-Christians. However, the question of marriage between Orthodox and Christians of other Churches is an ongoing pastoral ie. The fundamental prohibition, which also exists here, is not interpreted restrictively in all churches. Mixed-denominational marriages are quite common in many places, especially in those countries where the Orthodox do not constitute the majority population.
The decision, while still prohibiting marriage in principle, allows for exceptions if the children are baptized and raised Orthodox. Exactly what the practice will look like is to be left to each autocephalous church itself, the document states. Marriages between Orthodox and non-Christians, as well as "homosexual marriage," remain prohibited without exception.
The Orthodox Church has numerous fasting periods and individual fasting days, which in quantity and quality far exceed the fasting regulations of, for example, the Catholic Church. Thus, there are four major fasts alone. Since the 1970s, there have been attempts by individual regional churches to relax these fasting regulations out of consideration for the faithful. The decision stipulates that it is ultimately up to the pastoral responsibility of the individual local churches how they handle the fasting regulations in practice.
Tasks of the Orthodox Church in the modern world
The document on the "Tasks of the Orthodox Church in the Modern World" is the most comprehensive of the adopted texts, representing a first positioning of the whole Orthodoxy on contemporary ies. Individual churches have already presented declarations on some of the ies raised, for example the Russian Orthodox Church on the subject of human rights. The paper takes as its starting point the dignity of the human being, which is founded in the faith in creation, and identifies 15 thematic areas where the Church must face current challenges: Commitment to human rights, peace or social and ecological justice.
The ecumenical paper emphasizes the unconditional will to restore the unity of the Church. For this unity, among other things, unity in the sacraments and in the apostolic succession is necessary. "Interdenominational compromises" are rejected. The paper explicitly professes ecumenical dialogue with other Christian churches and denominations in a variety of ways. We reject every form of proselytism, that is, the wooing away of Christians from other churches. One point of contention in the discussion of the document was whether to grant "church" status to other churches.