(Crete, Greece) – Orthodox Church leaders are set to meet on the island of Crete in June of 2016 for the Great and Holy Council, an historic meeting that has been over thirty years in the making. Since then, the church has grown considerably – it is the second largest Christian church in the world and has roughly 300 million members.
The council is set to take place on the Feast of Holy Pentecost, which falls on June 19, 2016. Each attendee will be an appointed member of one of the 14 local churches. This is the first time in history a Council of this magnitude will be taking place. At the time of the last Council, which took place in 784 A.D., there were only 7 local churches. The focus of this meeting is to discuss how the Orthodox Church is relevant today and will discuss a variety of relevant topics. Specifically, the leaders will discuss “The Mission of the Orthodox Church in Today’s World” and all topics that fall under this topic. Others topics that will be discussed include the Sacrament of Marriage, the Orthodox Diaspora, the relationship between the Orthodox Church and the rest of the Christian churches worldwide, and the continued importance of fasting.
Meetings of this magnitude are the only real way that major changes to the Orthodox Christian religion could be made. However, the focus during this Council isn’t necessarily on change, but in discussing how Orthodoxy can remain relevant in a changing world. The meeting was scheduled to take place in Istanbul where the patriarch resides. However, representatives in Russia had said that they felt uncomfortable traveling to Turkey because of the relations between the Turkish and Russian governments. Although the Orthodox Church has said that the meeting transcends the political issues of the times, they moved the meeting to Crete anyway so that all members of the 14 local churches could attend. The Russian Orthodox Church is one of those members.