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Bulgarian Orthodox Church withdraws from Pan-Orthodox Council

The governing body of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, the Holy Synod, signalled on June 1 its withdrawal from the Pan-Orthodox Council to be held in Crete from June 16 to 26.

The Holy Synod asked for the postponement of the council because of the absence from the agenda of the council of topics “of particular importance for Orthodox Christianity that have contemporary relevance and require timely Pan-Orthodox Council resolution”. The Bulgarian Orthodox Church, where senior figures are strongly influenced by Russian Orthodox church figures, said that it would not participate if Bulgarian proposals for “thematic and organisational changes” to the planned council were not taken account of and respected. It also objected to the “inappropriate location of observers and guests of the Pan-Orthodox Council”. Finally, the Holy Synod objected to the need to undertake “large and unjustified” expenses for the Bulgarian Orthodox Church to take part in the Pan-Orthodox Council.

The Pan-Orthodox Council has been planned as the first such gathering in about 1000 years, but has been beset by controversies – one of the most significant ones being the fact that it is being held in Crete, not in Istanbul, seat of the Ecumenical Patriarch. The move was made under Russian pressure because of the tensions between Moscow and Ankara.