Saturday, January 10, 2009

Turks Trying to Exterminate the Orthodox Church

You'd think we would have gotten used to that kind of headline over the last millenium or so. But it's still going on. Not in the sort of graphically violent ways that we're seeing in Iraq and India, but by attrition and political maneuvering.

Per AsiaNews:

"We will never permit tricks or the vagaries of history to wipe us out from this land": the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, has commented on the report of the Turkish foreign ministry, which denigrates the "minority" presence of the Greek Orthodox community in Turkey, and refuses to recognize the "ecumenical" character of the ancient patriarchate.

Presiding over the reopening of the church dedicated to Saints Constantine and Helena in the Bozakoy neighborhood in Istanbul, Bartholomew I highlighted for the faithful present that "we are not finished, or hopeless." And recalling the great battle of Greek king Leonides against Xerxes of Persia, he added: "we will never abandon our Thermopylae."

It seems that the Turkish foreign ministry is trying to make the patriarchate "disappear," continuing to call Bartholomew I "the patriarch of Fanar [editor's note: the neighborhood where the patriarch resides]," refusing to use the title "ecumenical" and acknowledging only that he has spiritual responsibility for the domestic Greek minority, and not for the Orthodox communities connected to Constantinople. It also seems almost a concession from above to accept that Bartholomew I uses the title "ecumenical" abroad. All of this has an impact on the juridical status of the patriarchate, on its freedom to travel abroad, and to host foreign delegations in Turkey.

And for those who aren't paying attention, this could be hugely affected by what goes down in Russia with the selection of their new patriarch. It's well-known that Russia has, in the past, licked its chops over the potential demise of Constantinople. If the Turks get their way, the keys to the Eastern kingdom will fall to Moscow (in many ways they already have). Maybe this will be the sorts of pressure needed to bring Patriarch Bartholomew back into the fold. I don't know, but the situation bears a lot more watching than it's getting.

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