State steps in on church spat

The need to name a new bishop for Thessaloniki has brought the tense relations between the Church of Greece and the Ecumenical Patriarchate to a head. Foreign Minister George Papandreou, who has good relations with Patriarch Vartholomaios, met with Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens and All Greece yesterday. «We believe that the two sides can definitely find a solution calmly and through dialogue. We are always ready to help, but as ever within the context of the autonomy of these two institutions, which we respect,» he said. Christodoulos did not comment on a letter from Vartholomaios, which he received on Monday and which said a cleric from the Church of Greece could be elected to the Thessaloniki diocese. When granting the Greek Church autonomy, the Patriarchate retained the right to name bishops for the New Territories – areas like Thessaloniki that became part of Greece after the 1912-13 Balkan Wars. This custom had relaxed lately. With Bishop Panteleimon’s death on July 9, Vartholomaios decided to reassert his right.

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