Organization and Working Procedure of the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church
SYNAXIS OF THE PRIMATES OF ORTHODOX CHURCHES
Chambésy, 21-28 January 2016
ORGANIZATION AND WORKING PROCEDURE OF THE HOLY AND GREAT COUNCIL OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
*The following English text is a working translation. An official English translation is forthcoming.
** This document was not signed by the Patriarchate of Antioch.
Article 1- Introduction
By the grace of the Holy Trinity, the Holy and Great Council is an authentic expression of the canonical tradition and diachronic ecclesiastical practice—through the work of the synodal system—in One Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, and is convened by His All-Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch, with the consent of Their Beatitudes, the Primates of all the universally recognized autocephalous Local Orthodox Churches; and it shall be comprised of members appointed to each Church delegation.
Article 2 - The Convocation of the Council
The convocation of a Council shall be announced by the Ecumenical Patriarch through Patriarchal Letters issued to all the Primates of the local autocephalous Churches. Through these letters, he shall:
- Announce the completion of the pre-conciliar preparation of the Council’s agenda decided on the pan-Orthodox level;
- Determine the date and location of the Council, with the consent of Their Beatitudes, the Primates of all the local autocephalous Orthodox Churches, and
- Request from the local autocephalous Orthodox Churches, according to the pan-Orthodox agreements reached at the Synaxes of Their Beatitudes the Primates, to appoint their representatives to the Council.
Article 3 - Memberships of the Council
Members of the Council shall be those hierarchs designated by each autocephalous
Orthodox Church as its representatives:
- The number of members has been determined by the Synaxis of the Primates of all the local autocephalous Orthodox Churches (Phanar, March 2014).
- The delegations may be accompanied by special consultants—clergy, monastics or laypeople—but their number may not exceed six (6). Invitations are also extended to three (3) assistants (stewards) for each autocephalous Orthodox Church.
- The special consultants may attend the Council’s plenary sessions—without the right to speak or to vote—and are expected to assist the Council’s Secretariat or the Council’s Committees, with the right to speak and exercise special functions assigned to them.
- During the Council’s proceedings, each Primate may have by his side one or, if possible, two hierarchs from his Church’s delegation. Due to his numerous duties, the Chairman may have by his side two such members and one secretary. All of the consultants shall be seated behind the Primates;
- In the event that a Primate of a Church is unable to personally attend the Council or any of its sessions, a representative shall be appointed, according to Church practice, and he shall assume his seat.
Article 4 - Chairmanship of the Council
The chairmanship of the Council shall be exercised by:
- The Ecumenical Patriarch. The Primates of other Local Orthodox Churches shall be placed on his right and left according to the diptychs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
- The delegate member of the local Orthodox Churches shall sit, according to the order of the Holy Diptychs, in assigned seats in the sacred space of the Council, with the special consultants of each delegation placed next to them to facilitate their collaboration.
Article 5 - The Chairman’s Responsibilities
The Chairman of the Council:
- Announces the Council’s convening and conclusion
- Works together with the Primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches to plan the work of the Council’s agenda items and immediately settle all procedural or practical matters of the Council.
- Approves the liturgical program of the Council’s members
- Guides the discussions at each session by offering brief remarks, according to each circumstance, ensuring the greatest coordination of discussions according to the Council’s mission
- Extends the floor to members of the Council and guarantees strict observance and correct application of the Articles of the present Procedures in an effort to ensure proper progress and ecclesiastical order of the proceedings
- Coordinates the work of the Council’s Pan-Orthodox Secretariat
Article 6 - Secretariat of the Council
The Secretariat of the Council is pan-Orthodox and consists of multiple members:
- It shall be comprised by one hierarch from each delegation and the Secretary of the Council’s Preconciliar Preparatory Committee, who supervises the work of the Pan-Orthodox Secretariat.
- The members of the Secretariat shall be assisted by expert advisors (clergy, monastic, or laypersons), selected from among the consultants of the delegations of the local Orthodox Churches, who shall support the manifold work of the Pan-Orthodox Secretariat. The number of such advisers may not exceed two (2) from each delegation.
Article 7 – Duties of the Secretariat of the Council
The responsibilities of Secretariat of the Council include:
- Compiling files with documents—in the official working languages—of the preconciliar process needed for the preparation of the texts associated with the Council’s agenda
- Taking Minutes during the Council’s proceedings
- Assisting the work of the Plenary and that of the Council’s Committees
- Ensuring proper implementation of simultaneous translation—in the official working languages—of the Council’s discussions
- Establishing Special Committees that will both, prepare Press Releases to directly inform the public of the progress of the Council’s work, and prepare the Council’s Message
- Updating, as necessary, the Observers of other Christian Churches or Confessions by providing them with the files related to the Council’s agenda
- Immediately addressing all unforeseen practical or procedural issues
Article 8 - The Work of the Council
The work of the Council shall begin and conclude with the celebration of the pan-Orthodox Divine Liturgy, presided over by the Ecumenical Patriarch, with the participation of all the Primates of autocephalous Orthodox Churches or their representatives, in accordance with the holy Diptychs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
- According to the daily agenda, the texts unanimously approved at Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Meetings and at Synaxes of the Primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches shall be considered in Plenary sessions and/or in Synodal Committees.
- Except for the Council’s final Message, new matters or those topics that were not unanimously approved during Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Meetings or during Synaxes of the Primates cannot be submitted to the Council for consideration. The draft of the Council’s final Message shall be prepared by a Special Pan-Orthodox Committee a week before the convening of the Council and will be subject to the approval of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches.
- With the exception of the Council’s opening and closing sessions, all proceedings shall be held in closed-door session.
Article 9 – Discussions
- Discussions shall be held in the official languages of the Council, namely, Greek, Russian, French and English, as well as in Arabic as a working language. Simultaneous translations will be provided.
- Topics shall be discussed according to the order in which they appear on the Council’s agenda; discussions shall be strictly limited to the topic defined for each session.
- Off-topic interventions are forbidden and will cause the speaker to lose his right to the floor, unless the intervention correctly relates to a procedural or personal matter; in this case, he who asks for the floor must indicate the Procedural provision that has been breached.
Article 10 - Participation of Members in Discussions
Discussions during the Council’s proceedings are open; however, no one may speak without first requesting and receiving approval by the Council’s Chairman.
- A member of the Council who wishes to participate in the discussion on a particular matter shall submit a written notice to the authorized member of the Council’s Secretariat. This Secretariat member shall compile and prioritize a list of those who wish to speak and present it to the Council’s Chairman.
- An intervention by each speaker may not exceed ten (10) minutes; in case of a reprise, whenever clarification is needed or if the Council’s Chairman deems it necessary or helpful, this may not exceed five (5) minutes. The Primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches shall have twice as much time for their interventions.
- Irrelevant dialogues and personal disputes between members of the Council are forbidden since these are not only unrelated, but also contrary, to the Council’s mission.
Article 11 - Modifications of Texts
Proposals to amend, correct, or append the Synodal texts that were unanimously approved by the Pan-Orthodox Preconciliar Meetings and by Synaxes of the Primates, or to the Council’s Message:
- Shall be submitted by representatives of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches to the Council’s Secretariat and, in turn, presented by the Chairman during plenary session for official conciliar decision.
- At the conclusion of deliberations, the approval of any change is expressed, according to pan-Orthodox procedures, by the consensus of the delegations of each autocephalous Orthodox Church. This means that an amendment that is not approved unanimously shall not be passed.
Article 12 - Voting and Approval of Texts
Regarding the process of voting for issues discussed and reviewed vis-à-vis the texts of the Council:
- In accordance with the unanimous decision of the Sacred Synaxis of the Primates of the Orthodox Churches, votes shall be cast by each autocephalous Orthodox Church and not by individual members of their delegations.
- The vote of each Church—and not that of each member of its delegation—allows for one or more hierarchs in the delegation of a particular autocephalous Church to hold a dissenting opinion on proposed amendments or on entire texts. The dissenting position shall be registered in the Council’s Minutes.
- Dissenting opinions shall at that point be considered an internal matter of the autocephalous Church to which the hierarchs in question belong. In such instances, the Church may cast an affirmative vote based on the principle of internal majority, which is expressed by its Primate. For this reason, the necessary time and space must be afforded to each delegation, granting it the opportunity to consider this issue internally.
Article 13 - Adoption and Signing of Texts
The texts on the Council’s daily agenda that are approved unanimously shall be produced in the four official languages and shall possess the following authority:
- The Primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches shall initial every page of each text; they shall initial every page of each official translation. The Chairman and all the members of the Council shall sign the final page of each text.
- Possessing pan-Orthodox authority, the Council’s signed decisions and the Message of the Holy and Great Council shall be circulated by the Ecumenical Patriarchate by Patriarchal Letters to the Primates of the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, who, in turn, communicate these decisions within their respective Churches.
Article 14 - Participation of Observers
Observers from other Christian Churches or Confessions, as well leaders of inter-Christian organizations, shall be present at the opening and closing sessions of the Council but will not possess the right to vote or speak.
Article 15 – Publishing of the Minutes
According to the decision of the Primates of all the autocephalous Orthodox Churches, the special Pan-Orthodox Committee for Minutes of the Council’s Secretariat shall oversee the digital recording and transcription of the Council’s Minutes, allowing for their publication in the official languages and their dissemination to every autocephalous Orthodox Church.
Article 16 – The Media and Press
- By decision of the Chairman, and with the consent of the other Primates of the Orthodox Churches, a Synodal Committee—consisting of fourteen (14) members (one from each autocephalous Church)—shall be established and will provide regular updates to the mass media regarding the progress of the Council’s work. This Committee shall be supported by special consultants.
- Journalists properly accredited by the Secretariat for the Preparation of the Holy and Great Council may only be present at the opening and closing sessions of the Council.
Chambésy, 27 January 2016
† Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Chairman
† Metropolitan Gabriel of Leontopolis
(representative of Patriarch Theodoros of Alexandria)
† Archbishop Aristarchos of Constantina
(representative of Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem)
† Patriarch Kirill of Moscow
† Patriarch Irinej of Serbia
† Patriarch Daniel of Romania
† Patriarch Neophyte of Bulgaria
† Patriarch Ilia of Georgia
† Archbishop Chrysostomos of Nova Justiniana and All Cyprus
† Metropolitan Germanos of Ilias
(representative of Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece)
† Bishop George of Siemiatycze
(representative of Metropolitan Sawa of Warsaw and All Poland)
† Archbishop Anastasios of Tirana, Durrës, and All Albania
† Metropolitan Rastislav of Prešov and All Czech Lands and Slovakia