OPINION

Split Hierarchy

The decision by the Church of Greece hierarchy to elect bishops to the vacant sees of Thessaloniki, Eleftheroupolis and Kozani – which belong to the so-called New Territories, nominally under the authority of the Istanbul-based Patriarchate – was a legitimate move. (Still, we would like to know the reasons behind the resignation of Kozani Bishop Amvrosios, a wise and courageous man.) We do understand the problems of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and we do not mean to displease it. We have in the past backed all compromise solutions proposed on the controversial issue of picking new bishops for the three northern Greek sees. And we do respect the Patriarchal Act of 1928 (which grants the Greek Church administration over 36 sees in northern and eastern Greece, while keeping spiritual authority with the Patriarchate), including the amendments made to it as well as the practices that have been followed over the past 75 years. The Church of Greece is indivisible and autocephalous. These qualities, however, must apply to the entire Greek territory and not to one section alone. Furthermore, we should not confuse the ecclesiastical status quo on the island of Crete with the one in the New Territories. The charter of the Autocephalous Church of Greece, which lays out the rules pertaining to the election of bishops, is state law and the government was right to make clear, via its spokesman, that it shall move to enforce that law. In this light, a minimum of good will and understanding on the part of the Patriarchate could have lead to a compromise solution between the two sides. Neither Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios nor Archbishop Christodoulos wish to come across as medieval landowners who squabble over territory and power. They are spiritual leaders and they should be preoccupied with different sorts of problems. The Church Hierarchy is divided. It is, nevertheless, a collective body with decision-making authority. Disagreement with decisions made by the majority does not justify withdrawal from the body. Such a reaction is not accepted even in unions. The Hierarchy was split and it had to make some decisions, otherwise, it would have been undone. We share in the problems of the Patriarchate and for this reason, we believe that it should be dedicated to a different, more spiritual and truly ecumenical role that is alien to worldly, administrative or other claims.