Church leaders close to deal

A glimmer of hope emerged yesterday that the eight-month crisis between the Church of Greece and the Ecumenical Patriarchate might be coming to an end as Archbishop Christodoulos informed the Holy Synod of the results of recent contacts between the two churches. The dispute erupted when the bishop of Thessaloniki died eight months ago and the Church of Greece and the Istanbul-based Patriarchate disagreed over which had the final authority to name candidates for the sees in what are known as the «New Territories,» which became part of Greece after 1913. A total of three sees has fallen vacant. Christodoulos informed the body of three missions to Istanbul in February led by bishops Anthimos of Alexandroupolis and Panteleimon of Veria and Naoussa. In the last mission, on Friday, Vartholomaios and the Patriarchal Synod accepted in principle a draft that Christodoulos later worked on. The Holy Synod unanimously agreed on the text and it was decided that it should be sent to the patriarch. Part of the proposal states, «The Church of Greece repeats that it confirms the status quo of the New Territories and sends the Patriarchate the list of electable candidates in view of the need to fill the vacancies at the bishoprics of Thessaloniki, Eleftheroupolis and Servia-Kozani, so that (the Patriarchate) may exercise its rights.» No further details were made public as to how controversial issues will be dealt with. Bishop Theoklitos of Thessaliotis expressed the conviction that an end to the crisis was near. The Holy Synod will meet again on March 16-17 and could name a date for the election of the new bishops.

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