In a keynote address, the Ecumenical Patriarch His All Holiness Bartholomew noted that, with the convocation of the Council in Nicaea, a new period is launched in the synodal history of the church, adding that synodality is an essential dimension of ecclesiastical life, “a permanent function” of the body of the church. “Theology speaks of a ‘primeval’ or ‘ontological’ synodality.”
The Ecumenical Patriarch further noted that the synodal institution derives its origin from the depths of the mystery of the church. “It is not merely a matter of canonical tradition, which we have received and preserve, but of fundamental theological and doctrinal truth, without which there is no salvation,” he said.
The Ecumenical Patriarch further pointed out that this perception and expression of the church was for the first time in history manifested through the Council of Nicaea, which constitutes a special kind of synodal reality and structure. Until that time, the synodal system operated on the local level inasmuch as the assembly of all bishops throughout the world was impossible. “This is why many bishops were invited to local councils and their consensus was promoted through synodal letters, which in turn comprised a confirmation of the pursuit of an ‘ecumenical perspective,’ ” said the Ecumenical Patriarch.
World Council of Churches interim deputy general secretary and Faith and Order director Rev. Dr Odair Pedroso Mateus also offered reflections, noting that we are quickly approaching the 1700th anniversary of a historic church assembly which sought to keep the unity of the church in at least two ways: by solving doctrinal conflicts about the divinity of Christ and by unifying the dates of the feast of Easter.
“As we approach 2025, it is important to revisit aspects of the history of that council in light of recent scholarship,” said Pedroso Mateus. “This was one of the objectives of the conference held in Istanbul under the patronage of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Constantinople in close cooperation with the John 23 Foundation for Religious Sciences.”
In his address, Pedroso Mateus showed that the Council Nicea of 325 remains important for Faith and Order in two ways. “First as a council,” he said. “The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches called to work for conciliar forms of relationship among them.”
That, Pedroso Mateus explained, is why Faith and Order has studied in the past the importance of the conciliar process in the ancient church for the ecumenical movement.
“Secondly, as an expression of apostolic faith (a requirement for church unity), as the first ecumenical is the origin of a creed used by churches worldwide and despite their divisions,” he said. “I concluded my remarks by proposing the immediate establishment of an international, consultative platform, bringing together the actors of the 2025 events, in order to promote information exchange, calendar coordination, mutual support and synergies among them.”