New Strategy Needed to Save Endangered Ecumenical Patriarchate
By Peter Marudas - Special to The National Herald
Source: The National Herald
BALTIMORE - I still remember vividly my grandfather taking my cousin
and me sometime in 1949 to see then Archbishop Athenagoras on his farewell tour before
departing for Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) to assume his duties as Ecumenical
Patriarch. As the tall, immense and heavily bearded man swept down the aisle of the
Detroit high school auditorium to the musical tribute of the assembled choir, it
appeared to this very diminutive 12-year old stretching for a better view that
Athenagoras was indeed God himself - a sacrilegious, but understandably forgivable
thought from a child overwhelmed by his imposing presence.
Regrettably, I never met Patriarch Athenagoras, but that indelible
first impression was subsequently reaffirmed by those who did know him: He was a gifted
hierarch of gentle demeanor and humanitarian impulse. Later, as a reporter, I was able
to write a number of articles for the Baltimore Sun about Athenagoras and the status of
the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which succeeded in provoking protest from the Turkish
Embassy in Washington. Subsequent, years of public service offered me the unique and
unexpected privilege to work directly with the Patriarchate on a number of
These feelings for Athenagoras and the Patriarchate prompted me to
place a beautiful oil portrait of Athenagoras on the wall of my home office. The print
was given to me in 1967 by former Maryland Governor and Baltimore Mayor Theodore R.
McKeldin for my service as his last chief of staff. It hangs next to a large picture
of that same grandfather in the uniform of a Greek army fantaros (i.e., private) when he
returned to Greece from America to serve as a volunteer in the Balkan Wars of
The pictures of these two heroes are daily reminders of that pivotal
and great immigrant generation whose lives and faith bridged the "Old and the New
Worlds" and laid the foundations for Orthodoxy and Hellenism in America. Two
patriarchs, one spiritual, the other family: Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras of
Blessed Memory, a man devoted to peace and keeper of our ancient Orthodox Faith in
Constantinople died in 1972 at age 86, and my late pappou, Nicholas Leventis, our
family patriarch, who passed away in 1987 at age 98, leaving a legacy of six married
children, 17 grandchildren and 25 great grandchildren.
One may legitimately ask how this personal account relates to the
currently grave status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople. It is relevant,
for it demonstrates in genuine, personal terms the strong spiritual and emotional
connection which millions of Greek and other Orthodox feel for the Patriarchate,
and the pain and frustration they equally feel for its present diminished condition.
Moreover, for Greek Orthodox Americans with roots in the "old country," this
reverence toward the Patriarchate is comparable to their respect for the memories of
their own parents, grandparents and great grandparents.
What essentially fuels the present pessimistic view of the
Patriarchate's status is the unfulfilled expectation that conditions would improve as
Turkey moved closer to the European Union under a government unburdened by anti-religious
and secular Kemalism. Instead, the mood is now one of disappointment. Despite the
intense debate over human rights and civil liberties in Turkey, Ankara continues to
blatantly violate provisions in the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne (in which the United States
was also a participant), which guarantees the Patriarchate's independence, and the
Turkish Government contemptuously continues to ignore internationally recognized
standards of religious freedom.
For those officially charged with the responsibility for protecting
the Patriarchate (the hierarchy of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and the
leadership of the Order of Saint Andrew - Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate),
these developments have been especially vexing. After a long and highly public effort
to project the Patriarchate's cause, the results are depressing, if not demoralizing:
Continued confiscation of Patriarchal properties; no movement at all on the 35-year
closure of the Theological School at Halki; restrictions on movement of Patriarchal
personnel; repeated and unacceptable acts of disrespect toward the Patriarchate with
Turkish authorities seeking to downplay its ecumenical role by asserting that it is
merely an Archdiocese of Istanbul; prohibiting the Patriarchate from publishing its
own digest or theological publications; and even interference with whom it can
One can not underestimate the gravity of the situation. Unless the
Patriarchate and its supporters react to this crisis with a renewed and realistic sense
of urgency, hopes for preserving the Patriarchate hold little promise. The first step is
to recognize that the present Patriarchal effort has, to date, been notably
ineffective - inadequate not for lack of good intentions, but far more seriously for
lack of a coherent strategy: a deficiency largely attributable to the leadership's
failure to involve a much wider circle of committed Orthodox and other religious
resources in America and abroad.
Indeed, if any coherent strategy ever did exist, it has been a
carefully guarded secret among those ordained as the Patriarchate's protectors. Most
everyone else has been, at best, an interested observer or, most of the time, ignored
bystander. As the Patriarchate's steady decline demonstrates, it is simply unrealistic
to place its fate in the hands of a select few, rather than on the shoulders and
prayers of the tens and hundreds of thousands of the faithful who consider the See of
Constantinople the ancient repository of their Orthodox Christian faith. A reservoir
of loyalty and wisdom resides among the Orthodox faithful in America, but their talents
must be welcomed, and then skillfully utilized.
Why then, despite a substantial expenditure of political and monetary
capital, is this effort presently stalled? Most of the reasons are disturbingly simple,
and will be addressed in no particular order of unreality or ineffectiveness. They are
essentially divided into two separate but overlapping categories: actions and activities
initiated by the "Patriarchal Lobby" both here and abroad, and those undertaken by
the Patriarchate itself.
This discussion presupposes the realistic premise that the
Patriarchate and its supporters have (obviously) little direct influence on Turkish
internal politics, and must work around the margins of international religious and
political pressure. It also presumes, however, that developing a smarter strategy might
enable the Patriarchate to more effectively defend, and even advance, its interests
during this period of change in Turkey.
A logical starting point is to review some of the efforts undertaken
by the "Patriarchal Lobby," an informal group of Greek Orthodox Hierarchs, clergy,
and the lay officers and members of the Order of St. Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate. Their main task is to persuade policy makers and elected officials in the
Executive and Legislative branches of the American and other governments to pressure
Turkey to ease its restrictions on the Patriarchate.
Despite much well-motivated activity, the Lobby has produced minimal
results. After years of importuning appointed and elected officials, convening
innumerable meetings, press conferences and hearings and issuing statements, the
Patriarchate's fundamental status situation remains precarious and, in some respects,
Without question, Turkey's continued refusal to meet its obligations
to the Patriarchate is the basic problem. But another important factor is that the
Patriarchate and its chief supporters, at a fundamental level, misunderstand the
complex political and historical forces affecting this issue. Unfortunately, this
misreading has led to policies and actions which have weakened the Patriarchate,
rather than strengthening its cause.
One example is the inexplicable and continuing willingness to put
the Patriarchate in the center of Greek-Turkish relations and tensions. This ineptitude
has made the Patriarchate a target in the line of diplomatic fire between Athens and
Ankara, and even Nicosia, providing an assortment of Turkish nationalists with
ammunition to attack the Phanar as an instrument of Greek national ambitions.
For fresh evidence of this ill-advised policy, one need go no further
than the January-February, 2006 Edition of the Orthodox Observer, the official news
organ of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. This Lenten edition appropriately
features on its front page Patriarch Bartholomew's Homily for Holy and Great Lent, as
well as a similar message from Archbishop Demetrios, a most befitting beginning for
the great journey to Pascha (Easter).
But rather than direct us to more conventional spiritual directions
such as Jerusalem, Archbishop Demetrios and the Observer's editors, instead, diverted
its readers to Cyprus, courtesy of an eight-page special supplement (an apparent luxury
for the financially strapped Observer), sporting a huge banner headline proclaiming,
"FIRST EVER VISIT TO CYPRUS." Beneath this headline, Archbishop Demetrios is pictured
laying a wreath before the gigantic statue of the late President of Cyprus, Archbishop
Obviously, this unusual journalistic splash reflects the high
priority assigned by the Archdiocese to this visit - which then raises the question
whether it ever occurred to the planners of this expedition as to ask why there was
never before a "First Ever Visit?" Was it because wiser minds, in years past,
comprehended the negative political implications of sending the Patriarchate's leading
representative in the U.S. on a state visit to Cyprus? This certainly was not a subdued,
traditional pilgrimage - more in keeping with the spiritual duties of a Greek Orthodox
Archbishop - but a high profile journey with definite political overtones. We can only
speculate as to its motivations.
Was it to reassure Cypriots about the support of the Greek Orthodox
community in America? Did Archbishop Demetrios feel compelled to visit Cyprus because
his predecessors, Archbishops Michael, lakovos and Spyridon, were unsympathetic to the
injustice suffered by the Cypriot people? The answer is that neither the support of the
community, nor that of His Eminence's predecessors, has ever been in question. A simple
statement issued in New York would have provided the Cypriots with the required
What is truly astonishing is that so little thought was obviously
given as to the trip's perception in Ankara. Did the Archbishop and his advisors
actually believe that this widely publicized visit would go unnoticed in official
Turkish circles, and that it would have no affect on their attitudes toward the
Given the unfortunate reality that the Patriarchate's fate rises and
falls at the whim of the Turkish Government, why then would Archbishop Demetrios insert
himself and the Church in America into a political dispute which inflames Turkish public
opinion? How could this hope to help either Cyprus or the Patriarchate?
After all, in ecclesiastical terms, the Archbishop is the Exarch of
the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the United States. In laymen's language, he is the
Patriarchate's highest ranking representative in America, the long arm of Constantinople.
Suddenly, and with great fanfare, that long arm is thrust into the simmering Cyprus
The Archbishop's own statements, and the venues in which he appeared,
clearly delivered a political message, particularly with respect to Greek-American
support for Cyprus, remarks more appropriate for a secular leader.
It should be emphasized that such support existed long before His
Eminence ever appeared on the American scene, however, and is dependent neither on him
nor the Archdiocese for direction or leadership. Groups like PSEKA (International
Coordinating Committee - Justice for Cyprus) AHEPA, the American Hellenic Institute, the
United Hellenic American Congress, the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes and the
Cyprus Federation of America, as well as countless other organizations and individuals
have carried out a vigorous and relentless struggle for Cyprus over the years.
How deeply the Archbishop enmeshed himself in the politics of the
Cyprus question was recorded in press dispatches, and from official Archdiocese media
releases which referenced a private meeting between Archbishop Demetrios and Cypriot
President Tassos Papadopoulos, during which they discussed the Cyprus issue and the
role of Greek Americans in its resolution.
Politics were also at center stage during the official state dinner
honoring His Eminence, during which President Papadopoulos castigated Turkish policy,
expressing the certainty that the visit will strengthen the Archbishop's bold voice,
which is in favor of the fair rights of the people of Cyprus, and renew the effectiveness
and fervor of overseas Greeks for a Cyprus settlement.
And politics even impinged on the Archbishop's liturgical duties when,
after presiding at a Divine Liturgy on January 29, he was introduced by Metropolitan
Chrysostomos of Paphos who, in His Eminence's presence (according to press reports),
sharply criticized American policy towards Cyprus as one which "embraces the
perpetrator of the crime and condemns the victim," and described "The awful Annan Plan
as a methodical attempt to 'Turkisize' our land." In response, Archbishop Demetrios
assured the congregation that the Greek American community would continue to fight and
push Washington "for a peaceful and viable solution for the Cyprus issue."
Would it be so unreasonable to conclude from these statements that
part of Archbishop Demetrios' mission as the Patriarch's representative in America is
to be a "player" in the Cyprus and other Greek national issues? It certainly appears
that way, and if so, it is a mission with dangerous implications for the Patriarchate.
From the Patriarchate's perspective, the damage to its interests was
further compounded by the prominence in the Archbishop's entourage, of the Phanar's
chief lay protector in the United States, Archons National Commander Dr. Anthony J.
Limberakis, and Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, the Patriarch's chief confidant in the
U.S. and spiritual advisor to the Archons.
The appearance in Cyprus of this Patriarchal trio can best be
described as target practice in a Turkish diplomatic shooting gallery. Over the
years, Dr. Limberakis and Father Karloutsos have been delegated to meet with Turkish
officials and plead the Patriarchate's case. It is hard to see how their visit to
Cyprus will ingratiate them to the Turkish Government. To connect the Patriarchate
so directly with the Cyprus question is both politically irresponsible and naive.Linking the two issues gives Turkey a political advantage to play one
off the other and clouds the situation. Such matters are best left to politicians and
diplomats, not ecclesiastical representatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
These political intrusions are also confusing and contradictory:
confusing because, on the one hand, the Archons and others repeatedly assert, in
international venues, that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is a purely religious institution
which transcends national identity and parochial politics. As such, it is entitled,
under the Treaty of Lausanne and other international agreements, to complete religious
freedom. On the other hand, the Archbishop's trip to Cyprus flatly contradicts such
To be fair, involvement by Greek Orthodox hierarchs in Greek political
issues did not start with Archbishop Demetrios. His predecessors - especially Archbishop
lakovos and, to a lesser extent, Archbishop Spyridon - frequently entangled the Church
in America in such issues, to such an extent that these hierarchs actually received
private briefings on Greek Foreign policy issues from the highest levels of the Hellenic
Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs.
The Patriarchate has paid a high price for these and other misplaced
political involvements, actions which have trivialized its spiritual prestige and
provided ammunition for enemies in Turkey. It is a policy of reckless endangerment.
This inability to formulate a viable, consistent strategy was also
revealed during the Archons' visit to the European Union in May 2005. The following
report, lifted verbatim from the Archons Autumn 2005 Newsletter, demonstrates the
point: "Led by Metropolitan Emmanuel of France, who serves as the Ecumenical
Patriarchate's liaison to the European Union, a special National Council task force
of five Archons and their spiritual advisor, Rev. Alexander Karloutsos, visited
leaders of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France and Brussels, Belgium from
May 9 to May 13 to launch a dialogue about the religious human rights deficit in Turkey
and to promote Turkey's accession to the E.U."
Why would the Archons support or "promote" Turkey's accession to the
European Union when Ankara has resisted even the slightest concession on the Patriarchate
and, in some ways, has even tightened the screws?
Just how far the Archons strayed from long-established positions is
disclosed in the newsletter, which reports on the testimony Archbishop Demetrios and Dr.
Limberakis delivered before the Helsinki Commission on Human Rights in Washington.
Flanked by prominent American religious leaders, they vigorously and appropriately
condemned Turkey's decades-long persecution of the Patriarchate, stressing that since
1936, Ankara has confiscated 8,000 Patriarchal properties, and that the Halki Seminary
has been illegally shut down for 35 years by governmental fiat.
Also described are the Archons many meetings in Europe and Washington
specifically highlighting that Archbishop Demetrios "personally met with President
Bush regarding the serious violations of basic religious human rights perpetrated by
Turkey against the Spiritual Center of World Orthodoxy."
After spanning continents and oceans to expose Turkey's transgressions
to the world, how could Dr. Limberakis, Father Karloutsos and associates morph from
Paul Revere in Washington to Neville Chamberlain in Brussels?
It's as if a victim, who is mugged repeatedly by the same assailant,
finally gets his day in court; recounts his tormentor's many crimes; and then suddenly
asks the judge to release the accused.
The Archons should have unequivocally opposed Turkey's E.U.
application: No action on the Patriarchate. No support for E.U. entry.
Whether the U.S., Greece or even the Patriarchate publicly supported
Turkey's entry into the E.U. membership process, the Archons, as American citizens,
should have insisted that Ankara adhere to universally acceptable standards of religious
freedom if Turkey wants E.U. consideration and admission. A strong Archons stand in
Brussels would have sent an unmistakable message to Turkey that its treatment of the
Patriarchate would be aggressively challenged every step of the way during Turkey's
E.U. accession negotiations.
Instead, at the very moment when Turkey was under intense
international scrutiny, the Archons blinked.
Were the Archons and the Patriarchate so convinced that, by
supporting Turkey's E.U. application, Ankara would ease pressures and/or possibly
reopen Halki? Experience has shown that Turkey only moves on such issues when it is
under extreme pressure.
This is why proposals to assist the Patriarchate must always be
carefully thought through to maximize precious political and economic resources. Many
ideas are always forthcoming, but they must be measured against the basic criterion:
Will they really help the Patriarchate? Preoccupation with public relations and other
images of the moment often squander time and energy.
Such was the case with the highly successful campaign to obtain a
Congressional Resolution bestowing the Congressional Medal of Honor on Patriarch
Bartholomew during His All Holiness' visit to Washington in 1997. The patriarchal
lobby accurately boasts that this resolution gathered a near record sponsors. It did
so because of an extraordinary effort by the tribute's organizers in Washington, those
who contacted their elected representatives to sign onto the resolution, and sympathetic
members of Congress who courted their colleagues.
Much effort was invested in this Medal drive and, as they say in
Washington, "A lot of chits were called in." Did it justify the huge political
investment? Not really. For in the end, it had no perceptible impact on American policy
toward Turkey. In the nine years since the Medal Ceremony, American diplomats did, on
occasion, make sincere but discreet interventions on behalf of the Patriarchate. But
it is important to note that past and present U.S. administrations have consistently
refused to publicly condemn Turkey's treatment of the Patriarchate.
The above is the first of two parts. Mr. Marudas began his
professional career covering government and politics for the Baltimore Evening Sun,
for which he also wrote many articles about Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus question
and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He also covered President Johnson's separate White
House meetings on Cyprus in 1965 with the late Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou
and the late Turkish Prime Minister Ismet Inonou. In addition to serving for 23 years
as Chief of Staff to Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, he also served as Chief of
Staff to two Baltimore Mayors and as a senior staff person to a third.
When His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 51, was enthroned in
Constantinople (present-day Istanbul) on November 2, 1991 there was great hope in Orthodox circles that this
relatively young, well-educated and energetic hierarch would restore the Ecumenical Patriarchate's role and lead
world Orthodoxy to a new era of spiritual rebirth and secular status.
Nearly 15 years have elapsed since that event, and this expectation has evaporated like wisps
of smoke from a flickering church candle.
Many political and ecclesiastical factors have contributed to this development, but a major
influence has been a series of missteps and miscalculations by the Ecumenical Patriarch - serious mistakes in judgment
which have alienated the Patriarchate from longtime supporters, as well as from important segments of world
The Patriarch is certainly not responsible for all these many contentious issues - although he
has done his share - but he and his agents are culpable for handling them in a heavy-handed and counter-productive
manner, responses and decisions which have steadily undercut the Ecumenical Patriarchate's international prestige
and status. A brief listing is instructive:
Continuous feuding with the Patriarchate of Moscow, the largest Orthodox Church in the world, to the point
where the two Orthodox centers had suspended relations. An uneasy truce prevails, but these strained relations
have denied the Patriarchate the vital support of millions of Russian Orthodox Christians.
The highly publicized confrontation with the Church of Greece over jurisdictional and hierarchical control of the
so-called "New Lands," dioceses located in Greece. The Orthodox and secular worlds were shocked and appalled
by the bitter public exchange this dispute generated between Bartholomew and Archbishop Christodoulos of Athens
& All Greece. Its coverage by international and Greek media was intense, lengthy and embarrassing. It divided
Greek Orthodox faithful around the world; split Greek public opinion; and became such an intense political issue that
only intervention at the highest levels of the Greek Government finally resolved it. Why Patriarch Bartholomew pushed
this issue when his predecessors did not was never made clear. One explanation was offered by Rev. Alexander
Karloutsos, generally viewed as the Patriarch's closest advisor in America, during a chance encounter in Baltimore
in the summer of 2004. Asked why the Patriarch persisted on this issue, Father Karloutsos responded that, since His
All Holiness was convinced that these Episcopal arrangements violated the Patriarchate's rights, he was determined to
protect these prerogatives. One has to assume that Father Karloutsos was accurately conveying the Patriarch's
position, a stance which was eventually both self-defeating and humiliating for the Patriarchate.
Treating the late and much-admired Archbishop lakavos with disrespect and actively pushing for his ouster. Even
if it was time for the aging prelate to retire, his departure should have been conducted in a manner befitting his many
years of devotion and service to the Church. Instead, his retirement was abruptly forced, leaving a lingering resentment
among many Orthodox in America.
Replacing lakovos with Archbishop Spyridon, a well-intentioned, inexperienced hierarch with a very limited
understanding of America. This appointment created four years of tension and controversy, culminating with Spyridon's
unceremonious removal, an action which sparked further division and rancor in America.
Replacing Iakovos with Archbishop Spyridon, a well-intentioned, inexperienced hierarch with a very limited
understanding of America. This appointment created four years of tension and controversy culminating with Spyridon's
unceremonious removal; an action which sparked further division and rancor in America.
Arbitrarily destroying the unity of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of North & South America by dissolving it
into weaker Metropolises, concurrent with Spyridon's appointment. This unilateral reorganization was imposed without
consulting either Archbishop Spyridon or the clergy and laity of the Church in the Western Hemisphere. It is a
reorganization which has weakened the Church internally, and has also affected the Archdiocese's ability to assist the
Patriarchate with greater unity and decisiveness.
A highly divisive and public confrontation with the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia and its primate,
Archbishop Stylianos, another controversy which created ill will toward the Patriarchate in this growing corner of
Disregard for transparency and proper process in the governance of the Archdiocese of North & South
America, since downgraded to the Archdiocese of America. This controversy centered on imposition of a new
charter by the Patriarchate over the objections of many devout Greek Orthodox who felt that the Patriarch should have
shown a greater measure of pastoral feeling and understanding in this matter.
The bitter struggle between the Patriarch and the monks of the Esphigmenou Monastery on Mount Athos,
which has turned into an international public relations nightmare for the Patriarchate. Even if one concedes that these
monks are rebellious fanatics, the inability of the Patriarchate to resolve or manage this dispute, short of cutting off their
food supply and electricity, represents a failure of leadership.
Bartholomew's trip to Cuba in January of 2004.
The Patriarch's heralded trip to Cuba takes the cake for an initiative where mature political judgment
was virtually absent.
Why would the Patriarchate and its advocates, while actively seeking help from the Bush
Administration, the most viscerally anti-Castro administration in recent years, undertake a high-profile trip to Cuba to
dedicate a small Orthodox church in Havana? Did they not calculate how the Bush Administration would view this trip
through the prism of trying to wrench concessions from Turkey with respect toward the Patriarchate?
The visit generated just enough attention from mainstream media to spark some controversy, while
the Archdiocese released a barrage of press releases and photos showing the aging Cuban dictator wining and dining
with Bartholomew, Archbishop Demetrios and a bevy of Greek Americans. To make matters worse, either through a
mix-up or an intentional slight, the Patriarch skipped a special reception specifically arranged for him by the American
special interest section with representatives of Cuban Human Rights groups. Archbishop Demetrios went instead, to
the chagrin of American officials and human rights activists.
Is this any way to win friends and influence among people in Washington (or Athens, for that matter)?
Playing a front-and-center role in the Patriarch's trip was none other than the deposed King of Greece, Constantine Di
Grecia, a person whose actions many believe undermined parliamentary democracy in Greece and paved the way for
the seven-year nightmare of the military junta. With the Patriarch's standing in Greece already weakened because of
the New Lands dispute, appearing publicly with an unpopular ex-monarch could only increase public
And what about the reaction of those Greek Orthodox in America (whether they take a hard or
softer line toward Cuba) observing their spiritual head openly embracing a dictator who betrayed the Cuban Revolution
and brought the world to the brink of nuclear war? Or those Orthodox Christians in the former communist countries
who suffered severe repression, and even lost relatives to martyrdom, under totalitarian regimes which Castro
extolled over the years?
In both conception and implementation, the Patriarchal extravaganza in Cuba demonstrated, with
depressing clarity, an almost amateurish perception of contemporary politics and history.
By now, it should be evident that those officially responsible for advancing the Patriarchate's agenda
lack a fundamental understanding of the complex political and religious issues whose interplay threaten, or can assure,
the Patriarchate's survival in Constantinople. This status quo is unacceptable, and if it continues, it will eventually end
up with a "last person to the leave the Phanar door" scenario.
NEW PEOPLE AND
New people and new approaches are needed immediately. What might be the components of such
a new strategy? Here are a few suggestions to jumpstart a long overdue debate, which will hopefully encourage others
to come forward with additional ideas:
No effort has ever been made to recruit to the Patriarchate's cause. But it is imperative to truly
internationalize the effort to save the Patriarchate, first by severing its connection with Greek national issues, and
second by creating entities which would maximize foreign pressure on the Turkish Government and possibly develop
stronger ties with Turkish elites inclined to look favorably on the Patriarchate.
This would mean placing the sanctity and independence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the top of
the world's religious freedom priorities. Committees of prominent public and academic officials would be formed
throughout the world, heavily laced with non-Greek and non-Orthodox figures, like the late Sir Stephen Runciman,
for instance the man who revolutionized world thinking about the Crusades and who also authored "The Great
Church in Captivity," the definitive work on the Greek Orthodox Church under Ottoman rule, an individual who
devoted an enormous amount of personal resources and energy to preserving the religious treasures and spirit of Mt.
It should go beyond bestowing awards and banquets upon leaders like Nobel laureates Elie Wiesel
and Bishop Tutu and Mikail Gorbachev, or ex-Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush. Requesting their
services as honorary chairs, or even working members, of broad-based committees with real agendas in support of
the Patriarchate is essential. Every European Union country should have such committees, all working in unison to hold
Turkey's feet to the fire of religious freedom.
The Patriarchate must become truly ecumenical, not only in name, but also in spirit and practice. The
Phanar and its supporters must decide whether it will remain merely a national Orthodox Center for Greeks similar to
the Serbian and Bulgarian Patriarchates, or meet its ecumenical obligations as the spiritual leader of world Orthodoxy.
Attempting to perform both roles has led to an ecclesiastical schizophrenia, sapping the Patriarchate's religious and
It is unthinkable that, in this post-Ottoman, post Cold War era, a Patriarch who asserts, as
Bartholomew did over ten years ago, he is the leader of the "Apodemon Ellenes" (Greeks living abroad) can expect to
be perceived as the Ecumenical Patriarch of all Orthodox. Assuming the role of a Greek ethnarch confuses the faithful;
legitimately angers Greek secular and religious leadership; and incites the Turks. By assuming its ecumenical role, the
Patriarchate increases its chances of survival. Continuing on its present parochial path, as recent experience strongly
suggests, may well seal its doom.
The Patriarchate needs to become more ecumenical, but this does not imply de-Hellenization. Just
as the Vatican remains Italian in spirit and staff, even though the past two popes have been Polish and German, so
could the Patriarchate remain Greek.
It would become more ecumenical overnight, however, simply by appointing non-Greek hierarchs in
its jurisdiction as rotating members of the Holy & Sacred Synod in the way the Roman Catholic Church became more
inclusive by appointing more non-Italians to its College of Cardinals.
Two outstanding candidates immediately come to mind: Bishop Kallistos Ware of England, a member
of the Monastery of St. John the Theologian on Patmos, the most widely known author and proponent of Orthodoxy
in the English-speaking world, and Metropolitan Nicholas, primate of the American-Carpatho Russian Orthodox
Diocese of the USA. A friend of Patriarch Bartholomew, Metropolitan Nicholas, who was also a student at Halki, is
probably the most effective Orthodox bishop in the United States.
Additional appointments could be selected from the Patriarchate's other jurisdictions. By this and
similar appointments, the argument that the Patriarchate is exclusively Greek in orientation would be removed.
The Patriarchate has demonstrated it can make wise decisions. A stellar appointment was the
decision to send Archbishop Anastasios Yianoulattos, a Greek national, to the Church in Albania, an essentially
non-Greek country. Anastasios has transformed the Albanian Orthodox Church, one of the most suppressed during
the Cold War, into a viable force for Orthodoxy and reconciliation among all Albanians.
Expanding the planning and leadership base of the Patriarchal effort in America is also crucial.
This can develop in many forms. For instance, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese could establish
commissions of clergy, academics, public officials and other laity to advise the Archons, and even the Patriarchate, on
strategy and tactics. Such a process would have the advantage of diversifying information and ideas, while subjecting
old and new policies to serious review. For too long, the Patriarchate has relied on a narrow, small group of advisors
in America whose capacities have been either overtaxed, or who are of insufficient competence.
The Patriarchate must immediately convene a Great and Holy Synod of all Orthodox Churches. It is
an ecclesiastical imperative to bring all Orthodox together in this post-modern globalized world, but most importantly,
because it is essential to the Patriarchate's own survival. By this one single action, the Patriarchate would signal to the
world - and to Turkey, in particular - that it is the only entity authorized to convene a Pan-Orthodox synod. In so
doing, it would establish itself as the bona fide spiritual center of Orthodoxy in both the secular and religious
A Pan-Orthodox synod would also address the harmful jurisdictional disputes which have plagued
contemporary Orthodoxy. Such a meeting would empower the Orthodox Churches to engage the modem world with
renewed unity and re-invigorated intellectual and spiritual capacities.
In this process, and in all its dealings with other independent Orthodox Churches, the Patriarchate
must understand that it has much more to gain by taking on its canonical role as the chief coordinator/convener and
mediator for world Orthodoxy, rather than trying to act as its controller. Becoming a leader of Orthodoxy in this manner
will strengthen its position with respect to Turkey by establishing a bedrock of support, both in Orthodox countries and
among Orthodox wherever they live.
In fact, Patriarch Bartholomew told a group from America, to include myself, visiting him at the
Phanar in November 1993 that a Great Orthodox Synod would be convened before the end of the 20th Century. It's
now 16 years later, and a synod has yet to been called. Seventeen years have also passed since the fall of the Berlin
Wall, marking the end of the cold war and the liberation of Eastern European Orthodoxy from the yolk of Communist
atheism. Any further delay in arranging a Pan-Orthodox synod is inexcusable and threatens the viability of the
It is supreme irony that the Orthodox Churches in former Communist states now have more freedom
than the Ecumenical Patriarchate residing in NATO member and EU applicant Turkey.
There is much to be done in a very short time. It is hoped that these observations and criticisms will
stimulate new people with new ideas, as well as renew the spirits of those who have carried the Patriarchate's banner
these many years.
Complete unanimity among Orthodox concerning the Patriarchate's future is lacking, however. Many
believe the struggle is hopeless and not worth pursuing; that, in the end, it will be in God's hands. Others propose
moving it from inhospitable Istanbul to more conducive locations like the island of Patmos, Mount Athos, Thessaloniki
or even the United States. Others contend that the Patriarchate is so out of touch with the contemporary challenges
and opportunities facing today's Orthodox that it is religiously irrelevant.
Each of the above observations have considerable merit. But for all Orthodox Christians, there are
profound and practical reasons for keeping the Ecumenical Patriarchate in its ancient, spiritual home. It is one of the
original five centers of Christianity, after all (the other four being Jerusalem. Antioch, Alexandria and Rome). For
Orthodox and all canonical Christians, survival of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople is a vital part of their
spiritual heritage. It was founded by the Saint Andrew the First-Called Apostle, and is a holy place from which the river
of faith runs deep and true.
The Patriarchate also has surprising contemporary utility, even for non-believers of good faith. It has
had a long, if tumultuous, history of living with Islam. Consequently, it and the other historic Eastern Patriarchates have
an accumulated and balanced institutional memory in dealing with Islamic peoples, one not distorted by the ignorance
and arrogance of many "Western" religious, political and academic figures.
The present Patriarch has already demonstrated proven leadership in this realm. A revived
Ecumenical Patriarchate operating as a free and independent institution could do much for alleviating the tensions
between the so-called East and West, Christianity and Islam.
To even begin to think of these possibilities, however, the Patriarchate and its quasi-official
supporters must reach out much more broadly for advice, information and support. Perhaps they should borrow a page
from the great Athenagoras, who led the Patriarchate during the dark days of the September 1955 anti-Greek riots in
Istanbul, and in the early years of Christian ecumenism.
Despite this awful and terrible event, Patriarch Athenagoras never looked back, and just ten years
after this catastrophe, he reached reconciliation with the Roman Church; maintained Orthodoxy as an important part
of the Christian Ecumenical movement; and restored the Patriarchate's dignity and authority unblemished. And he
accomplished those feats not only under the most oppressive and dangerous conditions, but also with an abiding faith
steeped in a spirit of openness and love for all. That spirit would serve us well today, as we seek to build a broad
coalition in support of his beloved Patriarchate.
The above is the second of two parts. Mr. Marudas began his professional career covering
government and politics for the Baltimore Evening Sun, for which he also wrote many articles about
Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus question and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He also covered President
Johnson's separate White House meetings on Cyprus in 1965 with the late Greek Prime Minister George
Papandreou and the late Turkish Prime Minister Ismet Inonou. In addition to serving for 23 years as Chief
of Staff to Senator Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, he also served as Chief of Staff to two Baltimore Mayors and
as a senior staff person to a third.