Archbishop says he walks virtue’s road

Archbishop Christodoulos yesterday refused to back down in the face of the political storm that followed his declaration on Thursday that the Turks are «barbarians» who should not be allowed to join the EU, which he called «the family of Christians.» In a sermon in the chapel at the Aghios Savvas Hospital yesterday, Christodoulos quoted the Apostle Paul, saying, «We did what we had a duty to do.» Although he did not repeat Thursday’s statement, he argued that he was acting on principle. «Those of us who have undertaken duties as leaders of our people have a duty and an obligation, as long as the people look toward us to offer the support of hope and the example of the combative person and the combative Christian, of him who often prefers to sacrifice his tranquility for the sake of truth and justice and generally for the principles he serves,» Christodoulos said. «Every person has to face certain dilemmas… to choose the path of righteousness or the path of destruction.» But sources said that some Church officials close to the archbishop met yesterday and discussed the reaction to his comments. Some said that Christodoulos’s declaration was excessive and a mistake, allowing commentators to interpret it as stemming from his quarrel with Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios over jurisdiction over some Greek bishoprics. The Patriarchate is based in Istanbul. Some sources said that the archbishop might make some more diplomatic statement today to try undo some of the damage his comments did with regard to negative public opinion. The government repeated that it was in favor of Turkey’s closer ties with the European Union and stressed that it was not Christodoulos who determines foreign policy. Dimitris Gerou, a government spokesman, also tried to score a political point. «From what I know, the official opposition has not taken a stand yet. We would like to invite New Democracy to take a stand responsibly and officially. The government has taken a political stand,» he said. Nikos Voutsis, a spokesman for the Synaspismos Left Coalition, called Christodoulos’s comments «totally unbelievable.»