Church ‘act of love’ packs a sting

In a slight softening of the initial stance adopted by Archbishop Christodoulos, the Church of Greece decided yesterday to pay the barest lip service to what the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate insists is its 75-year-old right to a strong say in the selection of many Greek bishops. The Holy Synod, the Church’s governing body comprising 12 senior bishops presided over by Christodoulos, said it would send Patriarch Vartholomaios a list of candidates for the important see of Thessaloniki, whose bishop, Panteleimon, died on July 9. Two bishops voted against. But a Synod statement stressed that the decision was more an act of courtesy than a gesture of submission to Vartholomaios’s demand that all appointments to Greek sees liberated from the Turks after 1912 should be determined by the Patriarchate. «Leaving aside, in an act of love, the rights of our Church, [the Synod] has decided to send the Ecumenical Patriarchate the list of candidates that has been approved by the Holy Synod of the Hierarchy, not of course as subject to approval but purely for [the Patriarchate’s] information,» the statement said. A Synod spokesman refused to answer journalists’ questions on the matter. The sending of the list represents a compromise advanced by Vartholomaios, who insists that the sees – known as the «New Territories» – come under his jurisdiction. «These are provinces of the [patriarchal] throne, their administration was given to the Church of Greece on a tutelary basis and the Patriarchate never gave up its right to them,» he said on a visit to Greece on Sunday. Yesterday, sources said Christodoulos would speak at next Friday’s inauguration of the Thessaloniki International Fair, in a clear bid to assert his territorial rights. It will be the first time ever the head of the Greek Church officiates at a TIF opening.