Every couple of centuries or so, the leaders of Christianity's ancient Orthodox churches get together to talk about issues of theology or church governance. It helps if everyone agrees that there is some kind of crisis that simply has to be addressed.
It also helps if everyone shows up. The whole point is for the church to speak as one body.
That's been rather complicated, you might say, since the Great East-West Schism of 1054. The ancient church of Rome has held its own great councils, after that ecclesiastical earthquake. The ancient churches of the East have not.
That's why it's rather important that, for 50 years, Orthodox leaders have been wrestling with the idea of a Pan-Orthodox Council. After a 1,000-year gap, there may some items of business to discuss. You think?
That council is now days away -- if it takes place. Several Orthodox churches have already pulled out or suggested that they plan to do so, for reasons that some might call "Byzantine." It's especially crucial that the ancient church of Antioch -- involved in a tussle with the symbolic, but now tiny and oppressed, church of Constantinople -- has called for a delay until painful problems can be resolved.
The meeting is supposed to happen in Crete. Why Crete? Because pretty much everyone agrees that it cannot, for myriad reasons, safely be held in Istanbul, in the allegedly secular state of Turkey.
It you were looking for a symbol of all of that, you might cite the issue of Ramadan prayers being broadcast from inside Hagia Sophia (click here for background), a once great Christian cathedral that is now a UNESCO historic site. For decades it has been considered neutral ground for Muslims and Christians, serving a massive cultural icon and museum.
Here's the question that "Crossroads" host Todd Wilken and I discussed in this week's GetReligion podcast: Have you been hearing about any of this in news coverage here in America? Click here to tune that in.
So where would one need to go to find mainstream news coverage of this international story?