More than 1,000 Orthodox scholars have urged the primates of the Orthodox Churches to continue with the Pan-Orthodox Council in Crete.
The council, scheduled to begin on Saturday, has been hit by the withdrawal of five of the 14 autocephalous Churches, including the powerful Russian Orthodox Church. Among their concerns are the tone of some of the documents to be addressed at the council and unresolved issues about procedures and precedence.
The scholars, who include members of the Churches that have withdrawn, say in their letter: "We believe that there are no insurmountable difficulties to beginning the Council in June, despite the significant questions that have been raised regarding the drafts of the conciliar documents and conciliar proceedings."
It acknowledges the "legitimacy of some questions", but says: "Nevertheless, we are convinced that the best venue for settling significant disputes today, as in the times of old, is the Council itself. To postpone the Council once again, is to fail to live up to the principle of conciliarity on a global level."
It continues: "Nobody can expect the Council to settle all important questions and to heal all jurisdictional disputes in 10 days. But we hope that this Council will be a beginning of the healing process and that it will usher in a new era of global conciliarity and unity."
The letter accuses some Churches of attempting to intimidate the Orthodox leaders who wish to continue the council. It says: "The Holy and Great Council occasions an opportunity to commence a new phase of Orthodox witness. As the eyes of the whole world are upon the Orthodox Church, we beseech all of our leaders to hear the Spirit's call to conciliar unity."