New Book on the Pan-Orthodox Council

Eva Synek. Das “Helige und Grosse Konzil” von Kreta. Kirche und Recht 29. Freistadt: Verlag Plöchl, 2017, pp. 135. ISBN 978-3-903093-15-7.

After almost half a century of preparations the Pan-Orthodox Council, or Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church (official website:, was convened at Pentecost, 2017, on Crete.

Even until the end it was uncertain if the council would convene. Five autocephalous churches said they would boycott the council (Antioch, Georgia, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Russia). The Orthodox Church of Serbia changed its mind in the last minute, but four autocephalous churches still abstained from the council.

The council produced an encyclical, a message, and six documents on various topics (fasting, ecumenism, the proclamation of autonomous churches, the orthodox diaspora, marriage, and the mission of the church today). The Orthodox Churches have now entered a period of reception during which the status of the council and its documents will become clear.

The pre-conciliar process up to the 1980s has previous been studied by Anne Jensen in Die Zukunft der Orthodoxie: Konzilspläne und Kirchenstrukturen (1986).

The fall of the Iron Curtain and the subsequent political development suspended the pre-conciliar process until 2009 when it was resumed. To everyone’s surprise in 2014, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew officially convoked the council to convene in 2016.

The documents produced by the council have several implications for Orthodox canon law. Eva Synek has therefore written a short book about the council which is partially to be viewed as an addendum to the textbook on Orthodox canon law by Richard Potz and Eva Synek, Orthodoxes Kirchenrecht: Eine Einführung (2nd ed. 2014).

Synek divides her book into six chapters. The first two chapters deal with the historical background and pre-conciliar process. The third chapter analyzes the participants of the council and related issues. The fourth chapter analyzes the organization and procedural rules of the council. The fifth chapter analyzes the document of the council and their implications for Orthodox canon law. The sixth chapter discusses the status, authority, and reception of the Council of Crete.

Synek’s book is a welcome scholarly guide to the Council of Crete that put the council in its context and will help scholars and others to understand the event of the council, its documents, and the reception of the council and its documents by the Orthodox Churches.

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