NEWS

Preaching division

Archbishop Christodoulos, the leader of the Church of Greece, yesterday described Turks as «barbarians» and declared that they had no place in Europe, which he described as «the family of Christians.» The government, which has often found itself at odds with the populist Christodoulos, hastened to distance itself from him, saying it would continue to back Turkey’s entry into the EU. The archbishop, who is engaged in an unprecedented battle with the Ecumenical Patriarchate over jurisdiction of some 36 bishoprics in Greece, dropped his bombshell in a sermon on the feast day of a minor Orthodox saint, Serapheim, who was killed by the Ottoman Turks who ruled Greece for four centuries because he would not renounce his faith. «That is why they impaled him, like Athanassios Diakos,» Christodoulos said, referring to a hero of Greece’s war of independence. «And today they want to join the European Union. That is why we resist. The barbarians cannot enter the family of Christians because we cannot live together,» he said, his voice choking with emotion. «Diplomacy is fine but we must not forget our history.» Government spokesman Christos Protopapas took a different stand. «Everyone has the right to his opinion. But the foreign policy that we are following, especially with regard to backing Turkey’s closer ties with Europe, is the right one. It serves security in the region and our national interests,» he said. The architect of Greece’s closer ties with Turkey, Foreign Minister George Papandreou, called on another hero of the Greek liberation to present a different vision of history. «History teaches us and inspires us,» he said in Brussels, where he was attending a NATO meeting. «It inspires us with the vision of Rigas Ferraios. His vision was one of a peaceful, free and democratic Balkan peninsula in which all nationalities and all religions – Orthodox, Catholic, Muslim and Jewish – will have a place. This vision is today becoming reality with the completion of the EU and the inclusion of the Balkans. This vision serves our interests and security. This vision is the one the vast majority of the Greeks support,» Papandreou said. Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, who is based in Istanbul, favors Turkey’s EU membership. Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said provocative statements by some circles which do not want Turkey in the EU must be ignored.