‘Erdoğan saved future of Greek Orthodox Patriarchate

Diostheos Anağnostopulos

Source: Today’s Zaman

The spokesperson of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate, Father Dositheos Anağnostopulos, has said Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan saved the future of the patriarchate by offering Turkish citizenship to a number of archbishops in 2009.

In an interview with the Star daily, Anağnos-topulos said there were 12 archbishops on the patriarchate’s Spiritual Board at the time. “Most of [those archbishops] are very old. In order to become a member of this board, one has to be a Turkish citizen. If the patriarch dies one day, it seemed unlikely that a new patriarch would be elected from the board [due to the members’ age]. This danger has now passed. The prime minister attended a luncheon on Büyükada in August 2009 … and said the problem with the Spiritual Board will be overcome if archbishops applied to become Turkish citizens. He assured us that applicants would be granted citizenship,” the spokesperson stated.

Anağnostopulos defined the prime minister’s remarks as the “most positive moment in his lifetime.” “After the prime minister’s call, 27 of 35 archbishops abroad submitted applications to become Turkish citizens. Thirteen of them have already been granted citizenship,” he added. In 2010, CNN International ran a story on the Greek Orthodox Patriarch in which it suggested that Patriarch Bartholomew could ultimately be the last patriarch if Turkish laws, demographics and attitudes do not change. According to Anağnostopulos, however, this is no longer the case, thanks to Erdoğan.

The spokesperson also said Erdoğan and Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç were the first state authorities to express their wish to re-open a closed Greek Orthodox seminary on Heybeliada, off the coast of İstanbul. The Halki Seminary was closed in 1971 in accordance with a law that put religious and military training under state control.

In addition, Anağnostopulos said the Halki Seminary is of high importance for the Greek Orthodox population as it was once a base where clerics were trained for the religious community.

“An argument has been put forward by some people in Turkey. They say the Greek Orthodox population comprises only 2,500 people, and we needn’t train clerics for so few people. They say we may ‘import’ clerics from abroad. However, they should know that the Greek Orthodox patriarch is the most senior among Orthodox churches in the world. This is why he was granted the ecumenical title. We also have followers outside of İstanbul, including in North and South America and some parts of Europe, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. Their priests and archbishops are appointed by our patriarch. And for their appointment, it is a must for candidates to have graduated from a seminary,” he stated.

Anağnostopulos also said the re-opening of the Halki Seminary would not run contrary to the Treaty of Lausanne. He also ruled out fears that the “Byzantine spirit” would be revived if the seminary is re-opened.

“Some fear that it will go against the principles of the Republic of Turkey if the patriarchate is a very strong institution. This is wrong. The Republic of Turkey has a secular character. Every religious group has the right to continue its activities provided they are not engaged in politics. It is now a fact that the closing down of the Halki Seminary was not legal. I personally believe that the seminary was used as a trump card in the Cyprus issue and was eventually shut down,” he noted.


  1. It was very nice of Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan to offer Turkish citizenship to several archbishops in 2009, thus saving the future of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

    Now, if only Erdogan will agree to give up Turkish control of the northern third of Cyprus — which Turkey illegally seized in 1974 — Turkey will be a “shooin” for membership in the European Union, since even Greece will then strongly support Turkey’s EU membership bid.

  2. So, do I understand correctly that the GOA will now be known as the STOA (Subsidiary Turkish Orthodox Church)?

  3. 27 of 35 bishops? Are our bishops giving away the store? Lets say the purported “secular” government in Turkey undergoes a revolution not unlike the one we see going on in Egypt or the one Iran experienced in 1979. Things can change very quickly and these bishops who are Turkish citizens can wind up in prison very quickly. Why on earth would you give a government with a history of hostility towards Christianity the secular power to control and in fact possibly liquidate the entire Church. Why possibly subject Orthodox bishops to the hostility of Turkish politics? We need less appeasement and more pastoral courage here. I rather have a principled Patriarch in Exile the a Patriarch who is a puppet of some government.

    • Andrew,

      “Why possibly subject Orthodox bishops to the hostility of Turkish politics?”
      Aren’t they “subjecting” themselves?

      “I rather have a principled Patriarch in Exile …”
      Yes, and exile would transport him into the real world… and thus he would have the support of all of us.

      I am not Greek and don’t belong to the GOA, but when I look at the history between the Greeks (actually the whole of the Orthodox Church under the Ottomans and Islam) and the Turks (Islam) and then at those bishops who are freely becoming Turks, I recognize their motives. They want a promotion! They speculate for a throne! They give a rat’s *ss about the church, they are in it for the title and some fancy dresses…. Oh and having the Pope over for dinner…

      I hope the faithful in the GOA will vote with their feet and their cheque-books when they find out that their bishop has become a Turk…. Isn’t there a saying that if something has been negatively manipulated that it has been turked? Well, it seems the Chinese curse holds true, “may you live in interesting times…”

  4. With over 20,000 Russians in Turkey needing spiritual comfort, I think it would be much better… well, you can fill in the blanks.

    Erdogan didn’t save the Patriarchate, he helped ensure it’s close, painful demise by keeping the circle of candidates even more closed.

    Besides, what kind of Church depends consists entirely upon it getting more ‘candidates’ for bishop? Especially among the homosexual GOA bishops?

    Sounds like the laugh is on the EP, and Erdogan is laughing all the way to the Phanar.

  5. Geo Michalopulos :

    Somebody better tell the “crusaders for accountability and transparency” over at OCANews and some of the OCA bishops about the GOA bishops “giving away the store”. They really hate it when they hear rumors that Orthodox bishops in America are selling out their independence to foreign powers. I’m sure that once they get on top of this they won’t let it go until the issue is resolved. After all, how will we be able to have a united, autocephalous, pan-jurisdictional American Orthodox if the criterion for being a GOA bishop is Turkish citizenship?

    What a quandary. I hope they can solve that one for us.

    • George, I have to say that when the latest OCA unrest broke out you and I were far apart in our opinion. Howver, your work on your blog has raised some questions in my eyes that are valid. However, the one issue that holds me back constantly from agreeing with you completely is the question of the Metropolitan’s capability as a leader. I see too many bad decisions….too many to make we wonder. What is worse is that the Metropolitan seems unable to speak for himself and tackle this unrest head on. This is what makes me doubt his leadership on the most basic level. He is too busy embracing fantasyland Orthodoxy.

      I have no love for the politics of Hollywood but do you remember the Michael Douglas Speech from the film The American President?

      Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mWRVbWMvi7c

      The Metropolitan needs a moment like this where he reaches out directly to the people, answers his critics, and clearly describes his vision and embraces his role as a leader. Until then questions will remain and the longer they go unanswered, the longer the Metropolitan says nothing -the more people will just see him as another eccentric chap from the Diocese of the South who embraces an Orthodoxy that is more “Renaissance Fair” than reality.

      Thanks for all your hard work on your blog George.

      • Michael Bauman :

        Andrew, what do you expect from our bishops or more precisely, what to you understand the bishops role to be? I have difficulty understanding what you are asking Met. Jonah to do. Also it seems to imply a certain understanding of what it means to be Orthodox that I don’t get either. Although I’m not in the OCA, I have many friends who are. Most of them are in the DOS and are not what I would consider ‘eccentric’ at all they take the faith seriously in both its tradition and the how to best enter and live that tradition right now. A number of OCA DOS folks have a clear and sober attitude toward the faith that is both refreshing and challenging. But, I’m always suspicious when folks start talking about the traditional faith in terms of ‘reality’. I have found that often to mean they want to jettison the clear moral and theological teachings of the Church for a more pragmatic, modern and ultimately apostate approach. Hope that’s not you.

        Maybe that is part of the problem? Maybe it comes down to that Met. Jonah has articulated a vision and a bunch of folks don’t like it.

        • Michael, I assure you I am not advocating for Orthodoxy-lite. However, you are correct on one thing. I do not like it. I do not like how the Metropolitan and the leadership of the Diocese of the South allows the disgraced and deposed former chancellor of the OCA to function as a paid parish leader and pseudo-pastor. It is an embarassment to every honest person out there plain and simple. This is “reality” and reality says any diocesan leadership structure that tolerates this type of behavior is clearly dysfunctional and living in a fantasyland.

          • Michael Bauman :

            Yes, the murky handling of those involved in the previous financial misdealings has a lot of people upset. It creates a distrust and confusion. +Dimitri created that situation and no one else has had the ability and/or the desire to change it.

            I have a few things like that in my own jurisidiction that have left me chewing nails in the past. I finally figured out that all I was accomplishing was breaking my own teeth. Every direct action I attempted to take or contemplated simply was not correct–I suffered spiritually. If I were in the parish, I’d raise the question. If I were in the diocese, I might raise the question. If not, I have learned that prayer is the best course of action. Bishops do inexplicable things at times, they are not always wrong just because they are inexplicable.

            What is needed, IMAO, is a truly functional synod in which everyone is in submission to everyone else and all are in submission to Christ. That is what I pray for, that our bishops be given the grace, humility and strength to lead and to pastor their flocks.

            What I see from outside is a mentality of scapegoating at all levels and across all factions. Met. Jonah was trying to stop that from continuing, but unfortunately, only added to the fire and so has become the focus of those who wish to cleanse the body of all impurity or continue business as usual or export whatever sins and frustrations they wish to export without really taking responsibility for them. That is what I learned dealing with the troubles in my own jurisdiction. It was an excuse for me not to do what I need to do for my own salvation.

            Whether Met. Jonah goes or stays, the issues will still be there. Whether the other players ‘get theirs’ or not, the problems are still going to be there. If the scapegoat mentality continues to hold sway the last person out the door will have to turn out the lights. It is that destructive; and so seductive it takes a lot of spiritual warfare and combat just to keep oneself out of it.

            Though justice be thy plea, consider this,
            That in the course of justice none of us
            Should see salvation: we do pray for mercy;
            And that same prayer doth teach us all to render
            The deeds of mercy.

          • Michael, +Dimitri failed miserably by choosing to create this situation. However Metropolitan Jonah had every opportunity to fix this problem when he was locum tenens of the DOS. He CHOSE not to. This is why people of common sense question his ability to lead. Why does he not fix this problem? Does he even want to? This is not scapegoating its common sense and there are alot of people who are igoring the obvious in their confused loyalty to +Dimitri and +Jonah. I am sick and tired of every time this issue comes up there are folks who make it about my feelings etc etc. Its not about feelings its about doing the morally right thing and setting a moral example for the faithful.

          • Geo Michalopulos :

            Andrew, to say that “+Dmitri failed miserably” is true as far as it goes. However let us look at the context. First of all, +Dmitri did tell the deacon in question that he should resign from the diaconate “for the good of his own salvation.” He didn’t do it. Should +Dmitri have suspended him?

            Yes. Why didn’t he?

            Well, maybe he was too old and feeble, or maybe he saw the entire situation and said “what’s the use”? Let’s not forget who the deacon’s companion was (and is): the former Bishop of Boston. In my posts on The Dumping Ground, I’ve commented on the existence of the institutional rot in the Church. This rot didn’t arise from the ground like a fungus, it arose because deeply mediocre men became priests and the most corrupt among them became bishops.

            Had +Dmitri suspended Burke (the deacon in question) –which he did btw–Burke had recourse to canonical remedies. Instead, he used his buddies to strong-arm +Dmitri into lifting his suspension. Should +Dmitri have buckled? No. But neither should Burke have been able to rely on a corrupt cabal of buddies to do his bidding.

            As for +Jonah, he failed in not doing what +Dmitri attempted to do. There’s no getting around that. But make no mistake: the hatred towards +Jonah does not come from those who wish he had removed all homosexuals from the priesthood. Far from it. The SMPAC report (to the extent that we know anything about it at all) only names those miscreants who have run afoul of the Episcopalian Wing of the OCA. It makes no mention at all of Burke or others who don’t make +Jonah look bad.

            At the end of the day Andrew, we are going to have to come to some resolution. The question is: are those who hate institutional corruption in toto going to be cheering for +Jonah when he attempts to clean house? Or are they going to be standing in the peanut gallery screaming “sobornost! How dare he!”? If you are an honest man (and I believe you are), I’m pretty sure I know which side of the fence you’ll be standing on.

          • Was it your intention George to write that Met. Jonah has an upcoming agenda to ‘clean house’– but just a few paragraphs upstream writing he did not do so when having the direct authority so to do over some in the south?

            ‘Sides of a fence’ now? Beating the drums of schism in an already small space– who benefits, eh George?

          • Scott Pennington :

            At the risk of sticking my snout in . . .

            A distinction arises in my mind between managing an organization suffering from the sinfulness of its members, including its bishops, on the one hand, and on the other hand such unseemly things as open schism and open endorsement of h*resy or immorality.

            The first seems to be something that can and probably should be settled in private. While transparency regarding finances may be a good idea, transparency in how one deals with private sins (setting aside clergy sexual abuse for a moment) is probably a very bad idea. There’s a reason we don’t shout out our sins during services the way early Christians did.

            Now, some people do not like the fact that Jonah failed to remove or discipline this or that cleric sufficiently. That’s fine and well. If there was a question of a cleric abusing someone or doing something illegal, perhaps it is a matter of public concern. But there is private sin versus notorious sin. Whatever the truth at the bottom of these matters, people, including clerics, have sinned, are sinning and will continue to sin. The only question is when to make a circus of it. If it’s a matter of doctrine then it needs to come out to see the light of day. However, unless a cleric has broken some law and the Church intends to report them to the authorities, especially regarding sexual abuse, then much of the rest of this might be better resolved outside the limelight.

            Frankly, I can guess what Met. Hilarion Alfeyev said to the OCA synod and to Met. Jonah in his recent “irregular” visit. I refer to it as an “if-then-will” statement: “If you want the ROC to continue to defend the autocephaly of the OCA, then you will settle this business outside of the spotlight and commit to not airing your dirty laundy in public in the future.”

            Or something like that.

      • George Michalopulos :

        Andrew, thank you for your kind compliments. Did +Jonah make mistakes? Yes. Were they egregious? No. More importantly: why didn’t he? It is my contention that the mistakes he made were in conforming to the old boys club and the old way of doing things at Syosset. Mistake, yes, but correctable. The question is, will the OCA and its “crusaders” want +Jonah to do the right thing? (I mean, get rid of the homosexualist liberals?) I doubt it. But they’ve put themselves in the “outrage” box. OK, I’m outraged too. Go after them Big Guy!

        As to him not “speaking out.” Well, just 2 weeks ago he ordained a dying woman in a hospice to the Great Schema. His “conciliarist” critics called him everything but a wild man.

        He’s playing by their rules –for now.

        • George, I hear you…… but honestly how has the Metropolitan shown that he is able to correct his mistakes?

          • Geo Michalopulos :

            Andrew, I’d like to address this further afield if you don’t mind. Right now, the original question that I brought up has not been answered. And that is: why are those who are slinging mud on +Jonah for supposedly being soft on autocephaly, are not outraged by this offer of Turkish citizenship to ONLY Greek-American bishops?

            The implications for pan-jurisdictional unity are enormous should this be allowed to take place. In fact, it means that unity could only proceed under these conditions:

            1. all jurisdictions will be subject to Istanbul,
            2. only Greek-American bishops will be eligible for election to the patriarchate of Constantinople,
            3. therefore Greek-American bishops will be the “elite” among all American bishops.

            It goes without saying that the OCA, should it agree to merging with the GOA, would therefore lose its autocaphly. As far as “accountability and transparency,” you’ll have just as much as we got in the GOA right now. Which is nothing.

            Please excuse my sarcasm (it’s not directed to you) but it is directed to the Agent of Accountability, Transparency, and Autocephaly. I await his guidance on this matter. [crickets chirping.]

            Sarcasm aside, I think you can now see why I consider OCANews to be hypocrites of the first order. They are nothing but liberals and secularists (the “Episcopalian Wing of the OCA”) who are seething mad at +Jonah because he stands athwart the locomotive of homosexualism and immorality.

          • George, your points 1, 2 and 3 are 100% correct. Returning to this discussion, do we know who the 27 of 25 bishops who applied to Turkish Citizenship are? I looked at the patriarchal website and I see far more than 35 bishops? I think if you work through the list you can narrow the field significantly but the question remains as to who the 27 are? We know some but not all of them.

            AOI should run a link on the front page listing each bishops who is or wants to be a Turkish citizen.

          • No light comes from avoiding coming to grips with the answers to hard questions– instead substituting talk-radio style speculations about the whether some shared motivation might or might not exist among some unknown fraction of those asking.

            The hard questions need real answers or they won’t get better.. No matter the results of the various speculations.

        • George, knowing that his synod had strong feelings about larger issues to do with the group of which that nun was a part, do you know whether he made a few phone calls to explain the compassionate basis and get consensus from the synod members first?

          Is it not essential to model that being ‘first among equals’ is different from ‘leading subordinates’?

          • George Michalopulos :


            there is/was nothing “wrong” with the group that the nun was a “part” of. That’s a monastic community. We’ve had them in Orthodoxy going all e way back to St Pachomius.

            As to “giving a phone call” to the HS –which I think is acting illegaly in retrospect–that would be highly irregular. Has Bishop +Nikon, the locum tenens of the South informed the HS about what he intends to do about Dn Burke?

          • George, do you really think it is illegal for a metropolitan to call a few of his brothers on the synod? Hello?

          • Harry, this takes us all back to the question. Is the Metropolitan able to correct his mistakes? I have not seen anything yet that shows me his is able to or even wants to. Does he even think he made mistakes?

            Can anyone show me how Metropolitan Jonah has corrected his mistakes?

          • Andrew,

            You’d think leadership in an institution that is all about second chances for minor stumbles would find a way to manage at least what’s publicly known so far regarding this fuss.

            I know this: there are plenty of folk, many not interested in a good future for this or any church, mostly overseas, some domestic having gotten away with $$ in the past, who see the OCA’s ability to order its own affairs in the USA as something between an obstacle to an inconvenience for their agenda. These are not interested in the church as a community of people trying to better themselves and their communities, but as a career vehicle, screen for tax and finance shenanigans, a foreign policy tool, intelligence cover, or– a way to be male, wear dresses and get paid while people kiss you alot. These people will try to broaden every controversy, impute political or national origin passions to polarize and divide people, while purposefully avoiding to resolve any issue that if actually addressed would restore balance.

            Their desired outcome is to leave the target either broken or reduced into factions which can’t exist on their own, or at least in charge of some cult/chard with polarized unquestioning backers only big enough to provide them personal security for as long as they are in their working years.

            And, these people really like anonymity.

            I’ve often thought in the long game, the right path to autocephaly in the USA is for the various national groups, once gaining defacto freedom from foreign shenanigans or no longer requiring honest foreign launch assistance themselves, would be to merge. The idea that the overseas folk have of banding together to consolidate foreign control there of those here, sort of a ‘room of popes’– lots of words to describe that but none that I think would attract folk looking to match the ‘Orthodox’ in the title out front of the building to what they see going on inside.

          • Geo Micha lopulos :

            Andrew, I do not think that what +Jonah did constituted “mistakes.” Was he overworked and doing too many things? Yes. But none of the things he’s being accused of –and in reality he hasn’t been accused of anytjhing but “maybe having ADD”–are mistakes.

            When all is said and done, the “mistakes” that he supposedly made will be seen in light of what Orthodoxy in America has devolved into, which are the bitter fruits of our disunity.

            Examples will include navigating the treacherous waters in order to get the Holy Synod of the OCA to be invited to the Episcopal Assembly. Personally, I think that +Jonah and the bishops gave too much in being allowed to sit there. When it was obvious that +Jonah would not have been chairman, then they should have gotten up and left en masse. But they stuck it out and now the Phanar has to deal with them. (It’s all probably moot at this point as it seems the Russians are going to pull the plug on the EAs.)

            It is now clear that the OCA had an incredibly weak hand to play. Beinig in the DOS, I wasn’t aware how decrepit the OCA is on the East Coast (which outside of Alaska is its other major population center). That +Jonah was able to navigate his way onto it is a major feather in his cap as far as those who see some future in the EA.

            As to having +Jonah give a speech a la Michael Douglas in that insipid film, I’d rather not. The last time an American President sermonized to the people about getting off the stick was during Carter’s infamous “malaise” speech.

  6. Uh oh, anybody see the April edition of the OCA wonder blog at http://www.ocawonder.com? The April topic is partisan politics and some of those new articles merit a response from the readers at AOI.

Care to Comment?