NEWS

Church stakes raised

The government yesterday issued presidential decrees ratifying the Church of Greece’s election of three bishops, in what the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul has seen as a direct challenge to its authority over these and 33 other sees. Yesterday was the deadline for the decrees to be signed, 10 days after the new bishops were elected. But the bishops have to be enthroned within 30 days, leaving some time for mediation in the unprecedented and bitter clash between the Patriarchate and the autocephalous Church of Greece. Under a Patriarchal Act of 1928, the Church of Greece was given temporary administration of these 36 sees. The dispute erupted when the Church of Greece went ahead with the election of three bishops without adhering to the procedures stipulated by the 1928 Act. This resulted in the Patriarchate severing communion with Archbishop Christodoulos, accusing him of undermining the Patriarchate’s rights. Yesterday, Education and Religion Minister Marietta Giannakou met with Christodoulos and briefed him on her talks with Patriarch Vartholomaios in Istanbul on Thursday. «I ascertained good will and and a positive approach toward a consensual solution,» Giannakou said. «The government initiative will continue until it succeeds.» Sources say Christodoulos is not averse to making a statement of respect with regard to the 1928 Act, as the Patriarchate demands. But information reaching Athens from patriarchal sources suggested some bishops there would not be satisfied with this and wanted a decision by the Church of Greece Hierarchy retracting everything the Patriarchate disagreed with – which Greek bishops would not accept. An opinion poll by the VPRC company for Kathimerini and SKAI Radio found that Christodoulos has a 68 percent approval rating among Greeks and a 27 percent negative rating. Vartholomaios has a positive rating of 56 percent and a negative one of 30 percent. Also, 62 percent believe that it was «probably a mistake» for the Patriarchate to punish Christodoulos. Only 20 percent thought it «probably correct.»