of a general council. Although there have been hopes that a 'Great and Holy Pan-Orthodox Council' may in due course meet and there have been a series of preparatory meetings from the 1930s up to 1990, this has been interrupted as a result of the fall of communist governments. There seems now little prospect that it will meet in the foreseeable future.
Corresponding to the absence of a universal decision-making body is the erosion of the power of the ecumenical patriarch. Once the bishop of the capital of a vast, wealthy and powerful empire, today the senior Orthodox bishop presides in a city with less than 2000 Orthodox inhabitants, whose movements are restricted by a nationalist but anti-Christian Turkish government. A serious restriction to the freedom of the patriarchate is the requirement of the government that the patriarch should be a Turkish citizen, which results in a diminishing pool of possible candidates for this high office. There is speculation that the patriarchate may be forced to move out of the traditional capital either to a place nearby such as the island of Rhodes or more radically to Geneva or New York, so establishing himself as a leader of world Orthodoxy rather than a local bishop. A change of this nature would only take place if it became impossible to sustain the institution in modern Istanbul. There are various consequences of this power vacuum at the centre. It enables the patriarch to wield a distinct spiritual authority. The present patriarch, Bartholomaios I, said at his enthronement that he was 'a loyal citizen subject to the laws of his country', with a power 'which remains purely spiritual, a symbol of reconciliation, a force without weapons, which rejects all political goals and maintains a distance from the deceiving arrogance of secular power'. This has not, however, prevented some quarrels with other parts of the church, culminating in 1996 in a break in communion between Constantinople and Moscow as a result of a dispute concerning the jurisdiction over the church in Estonia. The ecumenical patriarch's preoccupation with preserving his position in a politically insecure situation impedes the exercise of a unifying role in world Orthodoxy.
All churches have to struggle with new ethical, social and economic questions, raised by scientific discovery and technological advances. The freedom from political repression for the majority of Orthodox has exposed them to this variety of questions and problems. The basis of the Orthodox approach to ethics is a reliance on the tradition of the church. Ethics as a discipline has not been a usual category of thought in Orthodox theology, but is seen as belonging within a holistic understanding of the spiritual life. The resources for Christian living and ethical decision-making lie within the liturgical and theological traditions, which come from the Fathers of the Church. This is no
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