Difference between revisions of "Autocephaly"

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'''Autocephaly''' (literally "self-headed") is the status of a church within the [[Orthodox Church]] whose [[primate|primatial]] bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop. When an [[ecumenical council]] or a high-ranking [[bishop]], such as a [[patriarch]] or other [[primate]], releases an ecclesiastical province from the authority of that bishop while the newly independent church remains in [[full communion]] with the hierarchy to which it then ceases to belong, the council or primate is granting '''autocephaly'''. Historically, however, autocephaly is not always obtained in such a manner.
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[[Image:World canonical territories.png|right|thumb|450px|Map of the canonical territories of autocephalous and autonomous Orthodox jurisdictions. Click image to magnify.]]
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[[Image:Europe canonical territories.png|right|thumb|150px|The European section of the above map, in closer detail. Click image to magnify.]]
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'''Autocephaly''' (literally "self-headed") is the status of a Local Church within the [[Orthodox Church]] whose [[primate|primatial]] bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop. Autocephaly is granted when an [[ecumenical council]] or a high-ranking [[bishop]], such as a [[patriarch]] or other [[primate]], releases an [[Ecclesiastical Province|ecclesiastical province]] from all obligations to any higher authority within the Orthodox Church, while remaining in [[full communion]] with the bishops of that province. Historically, autocephaly was obtained in a variety of ways. There are controversies regarding which historical methods of obtaining autocephaly represent a normative precedent to be followed in the future and which methods represent special exceptions.
  
 
==Church usage==
 
==Church usage==
Autocephaly refers to those churches which are not, in any way, dependent upon any other church, or churches, for their life and mission. On the other hand, each and every Orthodox church, regardless of its particular status, is responsible for the faith and life of the others. Therefore any action of any church is subject to the review of the others in reference to its doctrine, morality, sacramental practices, and canonical order. This is just as each and every Orthodox Christian is responsible for each other.
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Autocephaly refers to those Churches which are not, in any way, dependent upon any other Church, or Churches, for their life and mission. On the other hand, each and every Local Orthodox Church, regardless of its particular status, is responsible for the faith and life of the others. Therefore any action of any Church is subject to the review of the others in reference to its doctrine, morality, sacramental practices, and canonical order. This is just as each and every Orthodox Christian is responsible for each other.
  
 
== History ==
 
== History ==
Autocephaly is a developed practical concept in the Church. That is, it is not part of the original organization of the Church but developed over time for practical reasons. Though many arguments are put forth regarding how autocephaly is properly obtained, the historical and canonical record shows a good deal of variation.  But the something that is in common is that history shows that no council or church has ever ''created'' an autocephalous church.  
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Autocephaly is a developed practical concept in the Orthodox Church. That is, it is not part of the original organization of the Church but developed over time for practical reasons. Though many arguments are put forth regarding how autocephaly is properly obtained, the historical and canonical record shows a good deal of variation.
  
Certain areas developed for various reasons into self-governing churches, groups of bishops into synods or councils with a primate. These self-governing areas were then confirmed in their position by the others and '''recognized''' as such. None of them were ''decreed'' into existence or created ''out of nothing'' by some special churchly power.  
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In Antiquity, certain areas developed for various reasons into self-governing Churches, with groups of bishops organizing themselves into synods or councils with a primate. These self-governing areas were then confirmed in their position by the others and recognized as such.
  
Some were simply recognized according to tradition (i.e., "small T" tradition), by which is largely meant that those sees were recognized as primatial in their regions by virtue of the tradition of honor accorded to them:
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Some were simply recognized according to tradition (i.e., "small t" tradition), meaning that the bishops of certain prominent cities in the Roman Empire were recognized as primates over the surrounding regions, by virtue of the size of those cities, the importance and influence of the Christians living in them, and the tradition of honor accorded to them:  
  
 
* The [[Church of Rome]]
 
* The [[Church of Rome]]
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* The [[Church of Antioch]]
 
* The [[Church of Antioch]]
  
In some cases, autocephaly was simply declared by the church in question and then eventually recognized:
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In other cases, autocephaly was granted by an [[Ecumenical Council]]:
 
 
* The [[Church of Russia]] declared independence from the [[Church of Constantinople]] in 1448 and then in 1589 styled its primate as ''[[patriarch]]''.
 
* The [[Church of Greece]] declared autocephaly in 1833 but was not granted a ''tomos'' for it by [[Church of Constantinople|Constantinople]] until 1850.
 
* The [[Church of Romania]] declared its autocephaly in 1865 with strong protests from [[Church of Constantinople|Constantinople]], who eventually recognized the autocephaly in 1885.
 
* The [[Church of Albania]] claimed its autocephaly in 1922, which was recognized by [[Church of Constantinople|Constantinople]] in 1937.
 
* The [[Church of Georgia]]'s autocephaly (originally granted in the fifth century by [[Church of Antioch|Antioch]]) was abolished by the Russian authorities in 1811 (after Georgia had been annexed by Tsarist Russia) and then later restored ''de facto'' in 1917.  This restoration wasn't recognized by the [[Church of Russia]] until 1943 or by the [[Church of Constantinople]] until 1989.
 
 
 
Other churches became autocephalous largely from governmental declaration, eventually recognized by other portions of the Church:
 
 
 
* The [[Church of Serbia]] was ''de facto'' autocephalous in 1832, but not recognized by the [[Church of Constantinople]] until 1879.  Some claim that Serbia's autocephaly goes back to 1219.
 
* The [[Church of Bulgaria]] was declared independent by the decree of the Sultan, creating a canonical mess condemned at a council in Jerusalem in 1872 (by way of condemning [[phyletism]]), eventually sorted out and reconciled by 1945.
 
 
 
In other cases, it was granted by an [[Ecumenical Council]]:
 
  
 
* The autocephaly of the [[Church of Cyprus]] was recognized at the [[Third Ecumenical Council]] (431).
 
* The autocephaly of the [[Church of Cyprus]] was recognized at the [[Third Ecumenical Council]] (431).
* The [[Church of Jerusalem]] was declared a [[patriarchate]] with primacy in its area (over the claims of the bishop of Caesarea) at the [[Quinisext Council]] (the council "in Trullo" 692), which established the canons of the [[Sixth Ecumenical Council]] .
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* The [[Church of Jerusalem]] was declared a [[Patriarchate]] with primacy in its area (over the claims of the bishop of Caesarea) at the [[Quinisext Council]] (the council "in Trullo", in 692), which established the canons of the [[Sixth Ecumenical Council]] .
 
 
In still others, it was granted by one mother church to a daughter church:
 
 
 
* In 466, the [[Church of Antioch]] elevated the bishop of Mtskheta to the rank of Catholicos of Kartli, thus rendering the [[Church of Georgia]] autocephalous.
 
* The [[Orthodox Church in America]] received autocephaly from the [[Church of Russia]] in 1970 (though that action is still not formally recognized by any of the older autocephalous churches).
 
 
 
==New autocephalous churches==
 
Reguardless of ''how'' a church becomes autocephalous, the normal and historical procedure for a ''new'' autocephalous church, is to be to be formally recognized as autocephalous by the church of which it was originally a part. And then be formally recognized by all of the other Orthodox Churches in the world.  This does not require the blessing of any single particular bishop and certainly not an official gathering of an [[Ecumenical Council]]. 
 
 
 
 
 
  
== Analysis ==
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Sometimes, autocephaly was granted by one mother Church to a daughter Church:
  
===The Authority of Constantinople===
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* In 466, the [[Church of Antioch]] elevated the bishop of Mtskheta to the rank of Catholicos of Kartli, thus making the [[Church of Georgia]] autocephalous.
The notion that the [[Church of Constantinople]] has the sole authority to grant autocephaly is largely based on an interpretation of Canon 28 of the [[Fourth Ecumenical Council|Council of Chalcedon]] (451) stating that the Ecumenical Patriarch has authority in "barbarian lands." However, that is argued by many to refer only to certain areas on the borderlands of the ancient [[Roman Empire]] and having nothing whatsoever to do with the modern world some 1500 years later.  Historically (see above), many of today's autocephalous churches were originally under the authority of Constantinople by virtue of geographical proximity or a tradition of Constantinopolitan missionary activity.  So what may seem like a clear pattern of ecclesiastical order to some is argued by others to be merely coincidental and not [[ecclesiology|ecclesiological]].
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* The [[Orthodox Church in America]] received autocephaly from the [[Church of Russia]] in 1970 (though that action is still not formally recognized by many of the other autocephalous Churches).
  
There is, however, a good deal more historical evidence to suggest that Constantinople has a sort of missionary authority in the areas outside those territories which have been explicitly defined by pan-Orthodox synods to constitute autocephalous churches.[http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8148.asp]  This claim is disputed particularly by the [[Church of Russia]] and its daughter and dependency churches,[http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles5/PatAlexisCanon28.shtml] especially as an expression of the idea that Moscow is the [[Third Rome]].
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But there were also cases in which two different Churches both claimed to be the mother Church of the same daughter and both granted autocephaly to that same daughter Church, at different times:
  
=== Patterns of Autocephaly ===
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* The [[Church of Poland]] received autocephaly from the [[Church of Constantinople]] in 1924. This was not recognized by the [[Church of Russia]]. The Church of Russia granted a separate ''[[tomos]]'' of autocephaly to the Church of Poland in 1948.
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* The [[Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia]] received autocephaly from the [[Church of Russia]] in 1951. This was not recognized by the [[Church of Constantinople]]. The Church of Constantinople granted a separate ''[[tomos]]'' of autocephaly to the Church of the Czech Lands and Slovakia in 1998.
  
Further, even the idea that any mother church can grant a daughter church autocephaly is not supported by history or the canons as they now stand.  The modern conception of autocephaly postdates the primary formation of the Orthodox canonical tradition by some centuries, and so the canons don't currently directly address the question of how one obtains autocephaly in the 21st century.
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In some cases, autocephaly was simply declared by the Church in question and then eventually recognized by the others:
  
The truth is that, historically and canonically, there is no one way to attain autocephaly.  Why?  It is because there is no "theology of autocephaly" to be found in the [[Church Fathers|Fathers]] or the [[Holy Scripture]]. Indeed, the very idea of autocephaly probably would have seemed a little odd to the [[apostles]].  That doesn't mean that it is wrong, but autocephalous and [[autonomy|autonomous]] churches are not essential to the nature of the [[Church]]. That is, they are not inherently [[ecclesiology|ecclesiological]] matters.  They are a practical, administrative, canonical development, and they continue to develop, though within the context of ecclesiology.
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* The [[Church of Russia]] declared autocephaly from the [[Church of Constantinople]] in 1448 because the Russian Metropolitan appointed by Constantinople had accepted the Union of Florence and converted to Catholicism. In 1589, Russian autocephaly was recognized by the four Patriarchs existing at the time, and the Metropolitan of Moscow was also proclaimed a Patriarch, fifth in rank behind the others.
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* The [[Church of Greece]] declared autocephaly from the [[Church of Constantinople]] in 1833, following the Greek Revolution against Ottoman rule. The autocephaly of the Church of Greece was only recognized by Constantinople in 1850, and a ''[[tomos]]'' was granted at that time.
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* The [[Church of Romania]] declared autocephaly from the [[Church of Constantinople]] in 1865. There were strong protests from Constantinople, but Romanian autocephaly was recognized in 1885.
 +
* The [[Church of Albania]] declared autocephaly from the [[Church of Constantinople]] in 1922. This was recognized by Constantinople in 1937.
  
The one pattern which does seem to prevail is that autocephaly is an expression of the whole community of Orthodox churches and that the voice of that community is most often found in the leadership of the first among them, the Church of Constantinople.  Where autocephaly is proclaimed without Constantinople's assent, it historically tends to find itself on difficult ground.
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And finally, there have been Churches that received autocephaly, then lost it (by being incorporated into other Churches), then received autocephaly again. It is a matter of controversy whether it is legitimately possible to abolish autocephaly after it has been granted, or whether "losses" of autocephaly represent abuses of power:
  
 +
* The [[Church of Bulgaria]] received autocephaly from the [[Church of Constantinople]] in 927, then was re-incorporated into the Church of Constantinople in the 11th century, then declared autocephaly again in 1186 (recognized in 1235), then lost autocephaly again, then was declared autocephalous by a decree of the Ottoman Sultan in 1872. This created a canonical mess condemned at a council in Constantinople in 1872 (by way of condemning [[phyletism]]), which was eventually sorted out decades later. Bulgarian autocephaly was recognized by Constantinople for the third time in 1945.
 +
* The [[Church of Serbia]] received autocephaly from the [[Church of Constantinople]] in 1219, but the Ottoman Turkish authorities prevented the Serbs from electing a Patriarch between 1463 and 1557, then abolished Serbian autocephaly entirely in 1766 (incorporating the Serbian flock into the Church of Constantinople). The Church of Serbia received autocephaly again from Constantinople in 1879.
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* The autocephaly of the [[Church of Georgia]] (originally granted in the 5th century by [[Church of Antioch|Antioch]]) was abolished by the Imperial Russian authorities in 1811 (after Georgia had been annexed by Tsarist Russia). The Church of Georgia later declared autocephaly again in 1917. This restoration of autocephaly was recognized by the [[Church of Russia]] in 1943 and by the [[Church of Constantinople]] in 1989.
  
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==New autocephalous Churches==
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Regardless of ''how'' a Church becomes autocephalous, the normal and historical procedure for a ''new'' autocephalous Church is to be formally recognized as autocephalous by the Church of which it was originally a part (the "mother Church"). Following that, it is to be formally recognized by all of the other Orthodox Churches in the world. This does not require the blessing of any single particular bishop and certainly not an official gathering of an [[Ecumenical Council]].
  
 
== See also ==
 
== See also ==
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* [http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8131.asp Unity and Autocephaly: Mutually Exclusive?], by Dr. Lewis J. Patsavos, a canonist at [[Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (Brookline, Massachusetts)]]
 
* [http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8131.asp Unity and Autocephaly: Mutually Exclusive?], by Dr. Lewis J. Patsavos, a canonist at [[Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (Brookline, Massachusetts)]]
* [http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8148.asp The Origins and Authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church], by Demetrios J. Constantelos
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* [http://www.goarch.org/en/ourfaith/articles/article8148.asp The Origins and Authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Church], by [[Demetrios Constantelos|Demetrios J. Constantelos]]
 
* [http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles5/PatAlexisCanon28.shtml A Letter To The Ecumenical Patriarch Concerning The Situation Of The Diaspora], by Patr. [[Alexei II (Ridiger) of Moscow]]
 
* [http://www.orthodoxytoday.org/articles5/PatAlexisCanon28.shtml A Letter To The Ecumenical Patriarch Concerning The Situation Of The Diaspora], by Patr. [[Alexei II (Ridiger) of Moscow]]
 
* [http://www.oca.org/QAindex-autocephaly.asp?SID=3 Questions and Answers on Autocephaly], an ''apologia'' for the [[OCA]]'s autocephaly by Fr. [[Thomas Hopko]] (1971)
 
* [http://www.oca.org/QAindex-autocephaly.asp?SID=3 Questions and Answers on Autocephaly], an ''apologia'' for the [[OCA]]'s autocephaly by Fr. [[Thomas Hopko]] (1971)
 
* [http://www.holy-trinity.org/modern/theodosius.html The Path to Autocephaly and Beyond: "Miles to go before we sleep"], a reflection on the [[OCA]]'s autocephaly by Metropolitan [[Theodosius (Lazor) of Washington]], its former primate (1995)
 
* [http://www.holy-trinity.org/modern/theodosius.html The Path to Autocephaly and Beyond: "Miles to go before we sleep"], a reflection on the [[OCA]]'s autocephaly by Metropolitan [[Theodosius (Lazor) of Washington]], its former primate (1995)
 
* [http://www.oca.org/DOCindex-autocephaly.asp?SID=12 Agreement on the Autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in America], Agreement made by [[Church of Russia|Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate]], and the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America
 
* [http://www.oca.org/DOCindex-autocephaly.asp?SID=12 Agreement on the Autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in America], Agreement made by [[Church of Russia|Russian Orthodox Church, Moscow Patriarchate]], and the Russian Orthodox Greek Catholic Church of America
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* [http://www.imd.gr/html/en/section02/ecclesia/01/01/01.htm ''The Role Of The Protos Or Primate In The Church Of Greece,''] a presentation given by [[Metropolitan]] [[Christodoulos (Paraskevaides) of Athens|Christodoulos]] of Demetrias (later Archbishop of Athens) to the VIII International Congress of the Society ïn Canon Law of the Eastern Churches.
  
 
[[Category:Ecclesiology]]
 
[[Category:Ecclesiology]]
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[[es:Autocefalía]]
 
[[es:Autocefalía]]
 
[[ro:Autocefalie]]
 
[[ro:Autocefalie]]
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[[bg:Автокефалия]]

Latest revision as of 14:38, January 17, 2021

Map of the canonical territories of autocephalous and autonomous Orthodox jurisdictions. Click image to magnify.
The European section of the above map, in closer detail. Click image to magnify.

Autocephaly (literally "self-headed") is the status of a Local Church within the Orthodox Church whose primatial bishop does not report to any higher-ranking bishop. Autocephaly is granted when an ecumenical council or a high-ranking bishop, such as a patriarch or other primate, releases an ecclesiastical province from all obligations to any higher authority within the Orthodox Church, while remaining in full communion with the bishops of that province. Historically, autocephaly was obtained in a variety of ways. There are controversies regarding which historical methods of obtaining autocephaly represent a normative precedent to be followed in the future and which methods represent special exceptions.

Church usage

Autocephaly refers to those Churches which are not, in any way, dependent upon any other Church, or Churches, for their life and mission. On the other hand, each and every Local Orthodox Church, regardless of its particular status, is responsible for the faith and life of the others. Therefore any action of any Church is subject to the review of the others in reference to its doctrine, morality, sacramental practices, and canonical order. This is just as each and every Orthodox Christian is responsible for each other.

History

Autocephaly is a developed practical concept in the Orthodox Church. That is, it is not part of the original organization of the Church but developed over time for practical reasons. Though many arguments are put forth regarding how autocephaly is properly obtained, the historical and canonical record shows a good deal of variation.

In Antiquity, certain areas developed for various reasons into self-governing Churches, with groups of bishops organizing themselves into synods or councils with a primate. These self-governing areas were then confirmed in their position by the others and recognized as such.

Some were simply recognized according to tradition (i.e., "small t" tradition), meaning that the bishops of certain prominent cities in the Roman Empire were recognized as primates over the surrounding regions, by virtue of the size of those cities, the importance and influence of the Christians living in them, and the tradition of honor accorded to them:

In other cases, autocephaly was granted by an Ecumenical Council:

Sometimes, autocephaly was granted by one mother Church to a daughter Church:

But there were also cases in which two different Churches both claimed to be the mother Church of the same daughter and both granted autocephaly to that same daughter Church, at different times:

In some cases, autocephaly was simply declared by the Church in question and then eventually recognized by the others:

  • The Church of Russia declared autocephaly from the Church of Constantinople in 1448 because the Russian Metropolitan appointed by Constantinople had accepted the Union of Florence and converted to Catholicism. In 1589, Russian autocephaly was recognized by the four Patriarchs existing at the time, and the Metropolitan of Moscow was also proclaimed a Patriarch, fifth in rank behind the others.
  • The Church of Greece declared autocephaly from the Church of Constantinople in 1833, following the Greek Revolution against Ottoman rule. The autocephaly of the Church of Greece was only recognized by Constantinople in 1850, and a tomos was granted at that time.
  • The Church of Romania declared autocephaly from the Church of Constantinople in 1865. There were strong protests from Constantinople, but Romanian autocephaly was recognized in 1885.
  • The Church of Albania declared autocephaly from the Church of Constantinople in 1922. This was recognized by Constantinople in 1937.

And finally, there have been Churches that received autocephaly, then lost it (by being incorporated into other Churches), then received autocephaly again. It is a matter of controversy whether it is legitimately possible to abolish autocephaly after it has been granted, or whether "losses" of autocephaly represent abuses of power:

  • The Church of Bulgaria received autocephaly from the Church of Constantinople in 927, then was re-incorporated into the Church of Constantinople in the 11th century, then declared autocephaly again in 1186 (recognized in 1235), then lost autocephaly again, then was declared autocephalous by a decree of the Ottoman Sultan in 1872. This created a canonical mess condemned at a council in Constantinople in 1872 (by way of condemning phyletism), which was eventually sorted out decades later. Bulgarian autocephaly was recognized by Constantinople for the third time in 1945.
  • The Church of Serbia received autocephaly from the Church of Constantinople in 1219, but the Ottoman Turkish authorities prevented the Serbs from electing a Patriarch between 1463 and 1557, then abolished Serbian autocephaly entirely in 1766 (incorporating the Serbian flock into the Church of Constantinople). The Church of Serbia received autocephaly again from Constantinople in 1879.
  • The autocephaly of the Church of Georgia (originally granted in the 5th century by Antioch) was abolished by the Imperial Russian authorities in 1811 (after Georgia had been annexed by Tsarist Russia). The Church of Georgia later declared autocephaly again in 1917. This restoration of autocephaly was recognized by the Church of Russia in 1943 and by the Church of Constantinople in 1989.

New autocephalous Churches

Regardless of how a Church becomes autocephalous, the normal and historical procedure for a new autocephalous Church is to be formally recognized as autocephalous by the Church of which it was originally a part (the "mother Church"). Following that, it is to be formally recognized by all of the other Orthodox Churches in the world. This does not require the blessing of any single particular bishop and certainly not an official gathering of an Ecumenical Council.

See also

External links