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On the future of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

As it was said in a post about Koran, without the Patriarchate Constantinople today would be just an overcrowded Turkish habitation, a city essentially similar to any other Turkish city, with nothing comparable even a little with the significance of Byzantium.

The Patriarchate faces three options: first, Turkey enters the European Union and freedom reigns everywhere; second, Turkey decides or is obliged to respect Orthodoxy, even without entering the EU; third, the Patriarchate moves to a friendly country, most probably Greece.

The second option can not be excluded, but the Orthodox community in Constantinople has already suffered much, and is now going to disappear entirely, i.e., the Patriarchate has no time to experiment with Turkey’s intentions or wait for the interest of the international community, already proven weak.

Between the remaining two options, Patriarch Vartholomeos chose the first, thinking, I suppose, that away from Constantinople the Patriarchate would suffer a loss of its esteem and Orthodoxy would be in danger of losing to some degree its memory and identity.

The important question then is: Orthodoxy and Christianity in general will lose less in a multicultural European Union than in a European Union where the Patriarchate is at Thessaloniki? Of course the European nations can choose the multicultural kind of ‘life’ anyway, but now we focus on the Patriarchate’s decision to support this kind of ‘life’.

I wonder: if Europe’s memory weakens enough to create a faceless mixture instead of a European Union, how will the Patriarchate be able to strengthen the Christian memory just by being in Constantinople? There is some paradox here, to support Christianity by going against it, to want the strengthening of an identity that we advise to be lost!

The Ecumenical centre of Orthodoxy is where truth is, not in a city, and as regards political power, the Orthodox centre is where the most powerful Orthodox people is, i.e. in Russia.

If Russia comes to the point of forgetting her Byzantine origins, what Patriarchate in what Constantinople will be able to remind her of those origins? If Russia does not come to that point, then the Ecumenical Patriarchate, wherever its Seat might be, can become our spiritual centre to the degree that it participates in truth. If the Patriarchate can not become our political centre in any case, then why all this persistence in staying at Constantinople?

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  1. Sent to Ellopos Blog by email

    Author: Alice-Sofia

    The Patriarch made the right decision to stay at Constantinople, although the Byzantine Empire now lives only in memory of its descendents. However, not by the power of men, by the Spirit of God our Church is built and the world still exists. 2nd, no political reasons should ever influence decisions of the Christ’s Church. 3rd, even if Turkey completes extermination of the Christian community, it will not be 1st time, yet our life is in the Eternity with God. So, the Patriarch is right from all the points of view appropiate for Greek Orthodox Christianity. Personally, I would be most happy to see the Ecumenical Patriarchate moved in the US – the only country left where the true spirit of the Byzantium with all its splendor and wisdom might be restored. I pray God to protect our beloved Patriarch and our Church. With the best wishes, Alice-Sofia.

  2. Dear Alice,

    I understand your feelings, but you don’t offer any arguments at all. That “our life is in Eternity with God” doesn’t mean that the Patriarchate should stay at Constantinople!

    I was myself very reluctant to accept the former Archbishop of the US Orthodox Church Iakovos’ view, that the Patriarchate should leave Constantinople. Loving Orthodoxy and Byzantium I wanted a tie to remain alive there even now, even a living symbol of the Orthodox peoples’ common past. None of these benefits can equal the Patriarch’s fight for the entrance of Turkey in the European Union. Let me disagree on what you say about the US as a probable Byzantium. Byzantium was not multicultural, and there is no civilization that can be multicultural. In Byzantium many races could live and many nations, even keeping their customs, but the state was openly Christian and public life in general was under the influence of Christianity. Christianity was not just one religion among others, neither a “personal matter”, it was dominating. Multiculturalism means the absense of any culture, which is happening in the US. Can the Patriarch support such a future for Europe, just to have the Patriarchate staying in Constantinople?

  3. Sent to Ellopos Blog by email

    Author: John Katrakis

    There are two reasons for the Ecumenical Patriarchate to stay in Turkey: 1) to serve the Orthodox Christian community; 2) to be a witness of Christ to the residents of Turkey – from this day on. I am concerned that any motives based on preserving the past tradition and glory of Orthodoxy and Byzantium will end up being counterproductive and will sabotage the Church’s ability to carry out its two responsibilities defined above. I say this as a US native with Greek-born parents, my first language was Greek, I read my first book on the glories of Byzantium when I was 6 – and I am proud of this heritage. However, it’s taken me almost 50 years to realize that we need to focus on witnessing Christ in Turkey – as did the early Christians in the Roman Empire. We ought not be distracted by trying to preserve past ethno-religious glories – and I don’t think that God will allow this.

  4. Dear John,

    I’ll start from your second reason, because this way we will be able to understand better the answer to your first reason. In what grounds do you compare Turkey with Rome? The old Roman Empire, as you recall, included many nations and many religions, it was based in ancient Greek thinking, no matter in what ways understood and adopted it, it was based in admiration for Homer and Plato, and it was more after worldly law than after Faith. Turkish people is Islamic. Do you believe seriously that there is just a single chance for an Islamic people to become Christian? Turks had not one but a many-centuries-chance, from the moment they appeared in history and knew Byzantium.

    For whole centuries they were listening about Christ, until they conquered a Byzantium exhausted by so many attacks of so many nations, and they lived together with the Patriarch for centuries – still not becoming Christians. Now they came to the point of having cleansed their territory completely, leaving empty of Greeks a place where Greeks were present and creating from the time of the first Ionian philosophers. They have destroyed the Hellenism of Asia Minor completely, and you talk about them listening to sermons of the Patriarch and becoming Christians? They don’t feel any kind of admiration for the Greek culture and they are not open to any degree to the message of the Gospel.

    Even the single fact that a people believes for centuries in the fabricated pseudo-religious monstrous creation of Koran should be enough to let you know that Islam has closed ears, instead of expecting them to become Christians!

    Thus we come to your first reason. The only way an Orthodox community, even as little as one or two thousand souls, can still be in Constantinople, is the entrance of Turkey into the European Union. Given that Islam as such has not and can not have any relationship with Western values as developed in the ancient Greco-Roman and then Christian history of the western peoples, do you believe that the Patriarchate in Constantinople would be of such a great benefit to Christianity, that in order to have this benefit we should even prepare a faceless islamo-christian non-entity instead of a real European Union?

    What would this great benefit be? And a benefit to whom, since Europe will have been destroyed? Don’t you see what happens in your country, the US? Do you believe that a society without society, a common gathering around money, is a bright future for Europe?

  5. Vasiliki, Melbourne Australia

    The problem with modern man is that he spends much time discussing … why don’t we just allow things to naturally fall in place … oh, and the reading of OT and NT helps …it helps to see our own history even that which has not occured – yet!

    All that is prophecied is prophecied because God knows what OUR choices will be … He knows before we make them, what political decisions we make that affect His Church … it is not so much what He does or doesn’t want, it’s more about how far He lets us continue with our own arrogance.

    At the end of the day … the decisions will end up being anthropocentric … we have a massive veil over our eyes these days … we fight over political nonsense … The US may have a lot of knowledge, hence why many of them think they are the centre of Orthodoxy, but they also have a lot of arrogance when they refuse to adopt the historical trail of the Church, the close connection to its Greek-Byzantine roots ….

    Pick up the New Testament and read Apostle Paul’s epistle to the Thessalonians … Only within a few sentences do you realise what LOVE this Apostle has for the faith of the church in Thessaloniki … and if Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit .. then we should trust that the Holy Spirit has that affection and that love for the Greek nation, and the protection and service it has given to the Church for thousands of years …

    If Russia is capable of offering the same protection and love to the Body of the Church, then God will decide that through His Holy Spirit who will comfort the church and guide her… However, what if Russia is only wanting to be the spiritual leader because of political and strategic arrogance and interest? Same with the US …

    I say, the Powers that Be will make all these decisions anyway … The problem is .. it is the PEOPLE that used to make the shots in the past!

  6. Seldinis Peatrion

    I believe that the Ecumenical Patriarch should move to Thessaloniki, Greece. There is a historical reason for this decision. Thessaloniki was the co-capital of the Byzantine Empire while Constantinople was the official capital; therefore the Ecumenical Patriarch would simply be moving from one historically important Byzantine city to another thereby maintaining some historic continuity.

    But setting historic continuity aside, the Ecumenical Patriarch cannot remain in a city where the followers are dwindling in numbers and the government is indifferent and even hostile. The Turkish government periodically bans the Islamic party whenever it feels threatened by it, so why would they allow the Ecumenical Patriarch to flourish when they don’t even let the predominant religion of Islam any opportunity to grow?

    And even if Turkey joins the European Union or somehow becomes more enlightened towards its religious minorities without joining the European Union, it is doubtful that the Turkish government will allow any of these religious minorities, including the Ecumenical Patriarch, any opportunities to grow and prosper. Perhaps some oppression may cease on the surface but the oppression will quickly become more covert, which means it may even become more powerful. Any “religious liberation” in Turkey will be geared toward the Islamic masses not the Christian minorities.

    Should the Ecumenical Patriarch move to Thessaloniki, Greece, the Ecumencial Patriarch will be among the faithful in a nurturing environment. The Ecumenical Patriarch will be allowed to grow and funds (essential to any entity, even a spiritual one) will become more plentiful. A new, beautiful church could be built to accomodate the Ecumenical Patriarch and some of the historic architectural features of the historic Constantinople church could be relocated to this new church. The autocephalous Church of Greece could reunite with the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Ecumenical Patriarch would be free to pursue stronger relationships with the other autocephalous Orthodox churches (e.g., Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, even Russia).

    The spirituality of the Ecumenical Patriarch would only be enhanced because spirituality grows when there are more faithful followers. After all, the greatest strength of any religion lies not in its historic buildings but in its faithful communities. Why should the Ecumenical Patriarch be a historical religious minority institution in an indifferent nation when the Ecumenical Patriarch can be the flagstone religious institution in a supportive nation? The Ecumenical Patriarch is referred to as the Mother Church of Orthodoxy. Why not place our venerable Mother in an environment where She will be honored by her children?

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