CHR Comment: The article names two key players in the developments: Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and Russian Patriarch Kirill, whose church is not attending.
A historic attempt to bring together all leaders of the world’s Orthodox churches for the first time in more than a millennium has stalled after the powerful Russian church and three others pulled out at the last minute over disputes ranging from the seating plan to efforts to reconcile with the Vatican.
CHR Comment: This article provides more context over what is causing dispute. The issues are primarily about influence and authority, manifested by a dispute over seating at the council. The article confirms the greater size of the Russian Orthodox Church, which may have influenced the withdraw of some smaller churches. Another point of potential dispute may be a measure to foster reconciliation with Roman Catholicism, which would affect the authority and standing of the individual Orthodox church bodies.
A majority of the Orthodox Churches desire to “walk together” towards unity, while a minority desire ethnic isolation. The Pan-Orthodox Council must not and will not be postponed due to this minority. Nor will the nonparticipation of a minority invalidate the proceedings of the Council.
CHR Comment: The dividing issue that has caused some Orthodox Churches to withdraw from the council, which was fifty years in development, is the issue of consensus—how voting will take place. The article repeatedly speaks of a vast majority of Orthodox Churches participating in the council. However, this seems misleading since the Russian Orthodox Church is the largest body representing the most people. Their withdrawal is significant.