Bulgarian Orthodox Church pulls out of Pan-Orthodox Council

An Orthodox procession in Bulgaria.

The Bulgarian Orthodox Church has effectively withdrawn from the Pan-Orthodox Council due to happen later this month, according to sofiaglobe.com.

The Holy Synod of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church said that the council should be postponed until "thematic and organisational changes" were made, listing six objections to the draft documents that have been prepared for the meeting.

It says that unless the objections are met, they are "determined not to participate". Just weeks before the council, being held, between June 16-26, it is highly unlikely that the substantial changes will be made.

The Pan-Orthodox Council, the first of its kind in around 1,000 years, is a meeting of all the world's autocephalous (independent) Orthodox churches.   Preparations for it began in 1961 and it is being convened to address issues within Orthodox Christianity that have appeared since the beginning of the 20th century, including both ethical and territorial issues.

The Bulgarian synod said it had held "extensive discussions" over the council and concluded that it had six objections that necessitated its postponement.

The objections included a vague reference to the absence of important issues "that have contemporary relevance and require timely Pan-Orthodox Council resolution", but did not specify what these topics were.

It also objecting to the seating arrangements for the primates of Orthodox Churches during the council, as it "violates the principle of equality of the primates of the Autocephalous Orthodox Churches".

The Bulgarian Church also objected to the "large and unjustified" expense of attending the council.

The preparatory documents for the council are the result of long negotiations from leaders from across the Orthodox Churches.