OPINION

Bishop’s election

There are no doubt many serious differences between the Ecumencial Patriarchate and the autocephalous Church of Greece, but the dispute over the election of the bishop of Thessaloniki must be due to a misunderstanding, or at worst, to monkish stubbornness. We cannot think of a more serious reason. And because various sensitive foreign policy issues are involved, the government should at least inform the Patriarchate of the potential collateral damage of its claims. The autocephalous Church of Greece has exercised administrative authority (if one can speak of an administrative authority in the Orthodox Church) over the bishoprics of the New Territories effectively since the time when these regions were freed from the Turkish yoke. When this authority was formally ceded in 1928, albeit conditionally, it is certain that according both to previous and later practice it was ceded to an autocephalous Church, which makes its decisions independently, in accordance with approved procedures and without having to seek permission from anyone. This tendency toward autocephalous churches has also been strong in other countries with Orthodox populations, and above all when linked to national integration. This is not the first time that Patriarch Vartholomaios has raised claims regarding bishoprics in one of the New Territories. This has been a tragic move on the part of the Orthodox Church’s foremost head, who lacks a flock of his own or an «ecclesiastical territory.» It is this vacuum he is trying to fill by claiming administrative authority in other Orthodox churches. The results of this interference in the case of, for example, the archdiocese of North and South America, were extremely negative for a considerable period. Following these attempts, the patriarch appeared to perceive his role differently, as the spiritual leader of Orthodoxy, in which capacity he is recognized not only by his fellow Orthodox Christians but by other churches. The Vatican recognizes the ecumenical patriarch as its interlocutor. That is the role of the Patriarchate and the patriarch himself. The election of a bishop of Thessaloniki is the exclusive authority of the autocephalous Church of Greece, with its well-known procedures – and the equally well-known backstage activities that usually accompany the election of a bishop.