09/03/2007, 00.00
TURKEY
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Patriarch Bartholomew I optimistic about Abdullah Gül and AKP’s victory

Orthodox head comments positively election of new president at the end of annual synod. He announces new conference on the environment and initiatives to promote ecumenism with Catholics.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – At the end of the Indiktos, the annual meeting of the Orthodox Synod, both the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople and the Synod expressed optimism about the election of the new Turkish President Abdullah Gül and the earlier re-election of his Islamist party, the AKP, under Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

“We are happy about the elections and welcome with optimism the results of the parliamentary and presidential elections,” said Patriarch Bartholomew I, who was speaking from Istanbul’s Yenikoy parish to a group of young Orthodox involved in revitalising the city’s Orthodox communities.

The patriarch, who heads a tiny Greek-Orthodox community of a few thousand people, has lobbied the Turkish authorities for a long time to get them to grant greater freedom of religion, to allow the Church to open theology schools, build new churches, buy new buildings and return property belonging to the Patriarchate that was confiscated by the Turkish government.

“We hope the (election) results will have a positive impact on minorities, providing them with some answers to the problems that have accumulated over time and uprooted the Orthodox community.

The Indiktos, which starts the Orthodox Ecclesiastic Year, brought together 63 metropolitans from around the world. Among the issues they discussed was the need to protect the environment “from man’s excessive ambitions and abuses.”

The patriarch used the occasion also to announce a big conference on the environment to be held in Greenland on September 6-13 next year.

Another issue was ecumenism. A conference by theologian Ioannis Zizoulas, Metropolitan of Pergamon, was noteworthy for showing that the communion between the Catholic Church and Orthodoxy continued for a long time despite the official break in 1054, until the much deprecated Fourth Crusade in 1204.

“Gennadios, the first patriarch appointed after the fall of Constantinople in 1453 who had a reputation of being anti-catholic, used to say that Catholics and Armenians who took part in the liturgy should receive the blessed bread and the blessing with the icon of the Mother of God,” Zizoulas said.

Zizoulas’ address is encouraging for Catholic-Orthodox dialogue—it puts into perspective the relations Orthodox have with other Churches, including the World Council of Churches. For instance, he noted that whilst the “dialogue between Orthodox and Anglicans is not meant to achieve unity,” it can “encourage the formulation of common solutions to social problems even though there is no vision of sacramental unity. Orthodoxy is not a confederation of local Churches, but [a communion with] a centre of unity: Constantinople.”

Constantinople’s own ecumenicity is an issue for all the bishops, not only for the Patriarch, because it is an expression of their collegiality. Unfortunately, concludes Zizoulas, even though it is the expression of the rightful faith, the Orthodox Church is victim of the heresy of nationalism.” (NT)

Photo by Nikos Manginas

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