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Orthodox identity crisis

Orthodox identity crisisPan-Orthodox Cathedral in Crete which was planned to be on 18-26 of June, preparations for which took more than 50 years, is actually cancelled. On Monday, the Russian Orthodox Church has proposed to postpone the council to settle a disagreement, joining the Bulgarian, Serbian, Antiochian and Georgian churches, previously refused to go to Crete.

Last time all the Orthodox churches gathered in the VIII century, and the preparations for the present council has been conducted since 1961. In an effort to make this historic event possible, the organizers have tried to hedge against any possible contradictions. The discussion plan was amended. The questions of doctrine, marriage, and the Church's mission in the modern world were excluded. Even the question of unification of the calendar has been excluded from the program as it might cause conflicts.

But the negative agenda, the desire to avoid controversial topics was insufficient without positive - readiness to sacrifice short-term private interests for the opportunity to demonstrate the unity of the world. Policy announced itself at the stage of selecting the venue of the council - in December because of the strained relations between Moscow and Turkey after the downed Su-24, the Russian side insisted on his transfer from Istanbul (where all previous ecumenical councils were carried out) to Crete. Before the start of the council some churches decided to bargain with Constantinople on a number of specific questions, starting from the order of seating of bishops and ending with questions related to mixed marriages - it was a logical continuation of the course taken.

Activation of preparation of the council in recent years has been largely owing to the competition between Moscow and Constantinople for the role of the most influential Orthodox Church. The meeting of Patriarch Kirill and Pope Francis was part of this symbolic struggle but even in spite of its formal nature, it has exacerbated relations between liberals and conservatives within the ROC. In this case the participation in the council and the development of a joint (not too tight) position in relation to the non-Orthodox could provoke further split in the Russian Orthodox Church and other Orthodox churches.

However, postponing the council because of the inability to rise above narrow political interests is a sign for the Russian Orthodox Church and other churches that nationalist and traditionalist tendencies will strengthen, as well as various forms of joining faith and politics and eventually further marginalization of orthodoxy. The longer it is delayed, the more difficult it will be to carry out and the greater the risk that eventually the council will turn out to be a mere formality.

A unique feature of Orthodoxy is traditionally considered to be collegiality - unity in diversity, in contrast to the uniformity and unity of command specific to Catholicism. In the last few hundred years collegiality was declared at the level of doctrine and its implementation in practice was prevented by the historical and political reasons - from the fall of Byzantium in the XV century and ending with the persecution of the church in the USSR in the XX century. The inability to gather, when external factors no longer intervene, can be regarded as a crisis of the world's Orthodox identity.
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