Rightist Turks defy patriarch

Around 200 far-right Turks staged a protest in front of the headquarters of Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios in Istanbul yesterday, disputing the validity of the Orthodox patriarch’s title and calling for him to move to Greece. Amid a heavy police presence, protesters chanted slogans such as «back to Greece with the patriarch,» waved the national flag of Turkey and of the extreme-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP), and laid a black wreath at the door of the patriarchate. «The patriarchate has stopped being just a religious institution and has become a political one,» a senior MHP spokesperson said. «It is trying to establish a religious state like the Vatican, demanding part of the Turkish state’s sovereignty.» The protest, which ended peacefully, came a week after Vartholomaios told a conference in Istanbul that Turkey was preventing him from using his ecumenical title, which indicates his spiritual leadership of the world’s 250 million or so Orthodox faithful.