NEWS

Phanar’s envoys here

A mission of four bishops representing Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios arrived in Athens yesterday in an effort to present the Patriarchate’s case to the Greek government regarding the dispute with the leadership of the Church of Greece. Sources suggested that the government might make an effort to mediate between the two sides. The government also appeared ready to delay signing the presidential decrees that would bring into effect the appointment of three bishops in sees that are the cause of the worst crisis between the Patriarchate and the Church of Greece. Vartholomaios has urged the government not to sign the decrees. The deadline for signing is Monday May 10. Bishops Ioannis of Pergamon, Chrysostomos of Ephesus, Meliton of Philadelphia and Emmanuel of France, met with President Costis Stephanopoulos and Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis yesterday. They are to meet with Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis today. But government sources stressed yesterday that the government would implement the law, indicating that the presidential decrees will be passed. The crisis concerns jurisdiction over 36 sees in parts of Greece that became part of the country after the Balkan wars of 1912-13. In 1928, through a Patriarchal Act, the Patriarchate granted the Autocephalous Church of Greece temporary administration rights over these sees. The Istanbul-based Patriarchate, however, retained the right to approve the list of candidates for the post of bishop in these sees and to propose candidates for election. The Church of Greece says that according to the 1977 law establishing the Church’s charter, the Patriarchate has the right to add candidates to the list. Although the two churches appeared to be reaching agreement on the appointment of new bishops for Thessaloniki, Eleftheroupolis and Kozani, the compromise fell through and Archbishop Christodoulos led the Church of Greece into electing the three, despite warnings from the Patriarchate. As a result, last Friday Vartholomaios and 41 senior clerics suspended relations with Christodoulos, refusing to recognize the new bishops and warning them not to take up their new positions. The government has said it will mediate if both sides ask it to. But sources said yesterday that Education and Religion Minister Marietta Giannakou was preparing to meet with Vartholomaios in Istanbul by the end of the week. Christodoulos has stuck to his guns and has called a meeting of the Standing Holy Synod, probably next week. It is not clear what position many bishops, especially in the 36 so-called «new territories,» will take.