Church mediation bid fails

An effort by Greek mediators to defuse rapidly escalating tension between the Church of Greece and the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarchate has fallen flat after both parties in the religious turf war traded accusations of intransigence. In a statement late on Saturday, the Patriarchate claimed Church of Greece representatives had failed to make any concessions in the talks held last week in Istanbul and Athens, with the participation of senior churchmen as well as the secular governor of the Mt Athos monastic community in northern Greece and his predecessor, influential To Vima daily’s editor, Stavros Psycharis. The Greek Church, headed by Archbishop Christodoulos, and the Patriarchate, under the leadership of Patriarch Vartholomaios, are at odds over who should have jurisdiction over 36 northern Greek sees freed from the Turks after 1912. The matter became acutely topical in the summer, when the heads of two northern Greek bishoprics died. The Patriarchate claims a right to approve a list, compiled by the Greek Church, of candidates to replace the two bishops. However, Christodoulos, backed by many of his bishops, holds that such a list would serve purely for Vartholomaios’s information, and would confer no right of intervention. The situation is further complicated by internal strife within the Church of Greece, with several senior bishops openly backing the Patriarch. With this in mind, Vartholomaios on Saturday appealed to Greek bishops to «uphold the rights» of the Patriarchate during a meeting under Christodoulos convened to discuss the matter tomorrow. Yesterday, senior Church of Greece sources denied the Patriarch’s accusations of intransigence, and said it was Vartholomaios’s emissaries who refused to budge.