Patriarch unyielding in crisis

Top Church of Greece officials conclude a crucial three-day meeting in Athens today that could shape the future of the Church’s troubled relations with the Ecumenical Patriarchate, in the shadow of a blistering attack yesterday from the Istanbul-based patriarch, nominal leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians. Accusing Archbishop Christodoulos, head of the Church of Greece, of «preparing the way for changes in the regime [governing the functioning of the Greek Church],» Patriarch Vartholomaios warned that the already stormy state of affairs could be further exacerbated. The two churches are at odds regarding jurisdiction over 36 northern Greek sees liberated from the Turks after 1912. The quarrel – which could lead to a schism – arose after the summer deaths of two northern Greek bishops, which brought up the question of how their successors are to be appointed. Vartholomaios wants the Greek Church to send him a list of candidates for approval, while Christodoulos has said he is only willing to send the names for the patriarch’s information. The archbishop argues that the 1928 church agreement at the root of the dispute has been superseded by Greek legislation of 1977. «His Beatitude’s view that the act of 1928 is not founded on any holy canon questions, for the first time, the regularity of Greece’s extant church regime,» the patriarch said. «This could cause a major crisis in relations between the two churches.» Sources said Christodoulos yesterday advocated a compromise before the plenary session of Greece’s bishops. The archbishop is reportedly prepared to send Vartholomaios a list of candidates for approval, provided the document is returned to Athens for approval – which Christodoulos maintains would be a pure formality, within the letter of the 1977 law.