Church bridge creaks and sways

For the first time in over five weeks, the name of Archbishop Christodoulos was officially mentioned in prayers at the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul yesterday, marking the cessation of open hostilities between the two churches over control of three dozen northern Greek sees. However, Church of Greece officials in Athens implied that the turf war was not yet over, responding to Friday’s stipulation by Patriarch Vartholomaios that three newly appointed northern bishops will have to apologize in writing for their election, which was carried out against the wishes of the Patriarchate. A spokesman for Christodoulos said on Saturday that this demand had not been part of the peace deal brokered last month between the two churches by Education Minister Marietta Giannakou. «The setting of terms and preconditions regarding the recognition of the three canonically and legitimately elected new bishops is a clear breach of the agreement,» Epifanios Iconomou said. However, he hailed the agreement as «a blessed development.» At the end of April, Vartholomaios broke communion with Christodoulos over the latter’s decision to openly defy the Patriarchate and proceed with the election of new bishops for Thessaloniki, Kozani and Eleftheroupolis. The patriarch also refused to recognize the three officials. The turf war concerns control of 36 northern sees in parts of Greece that were wrested from Turkey after 1912. It was officially declared over by Vartholomaios on Friday, one week after the Church of Greece agreed to adhere to patriarchal decisions of 1850 and 1928 governing the balance of power between the two churches. However, Christodoulos has made it clear that he was unhappy with the deal, and far from penitent. «Displaying great prudence and calm, we even reached the point of retreating from our acquired rights in order to preserve unity and good relations,» he told an Athens congregation on Saturday.