OPINION

Clerical dispute is political

The issue that has arisen in the relationship between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church of Greece over the election of the new bishop of Thessaloniki is above all political. It is part of an effort by a small number of so-called reformists to use the Patriarchate to undermine the standing of Archbishop of Athens and All Greece Christodoulos and the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece. The attempt is politically naive and extremely dangerous with regard to its possible repercussions; it is strange that Patriarch Vartholomaios has adopted an assertive policy – recently in Lemnos, he more or less demanded a direct say in the question of who was to be Thessaloniki’s next metropolitan bishop. The New Territories (that became Greek after the Balkan Wars of 1912-13), which include Thessaloniki, lie within Greek territory and there can be no special ecclesiastical status for them. One could question the rationale of founding the autocephalous Church of Greece, but as it exists, any attempt to exclude the New Territories provokes ordinary people and gives rise to suspicions. The Patriarchate, in its ecclesiastical or political capacity, has always been identified with political subtlety, yet the attempt to secure control of the Thessaloniki bishopric by invoking the treaty of 1928 – inactive for decades – or by the submission of a list of candidates to the patriarch is not worthy of the traditions of such a centuries-old institution. The crisis benefits no one, least of all the Patriarchate. As for those naive souls who are trying to attack the Church of Greece by using the Patriarchate, they should realize their insignificance. Let them concern themselves with the ordinary problems which they seem incapable of dealing with.