Patriarch Bartholomew blasts Tsipras by citing Erdoğan in rift over constitution

Patriarch Bartholomew blasts Tsipras by citing Erdoğan in rift over constitution

Yorgo KIRBAKİ - ATHENS
Patriarch Bartholomew blasts Tsipras by citing Erdoğan in rift over constitution

Patriach Bartholomew (R) met on Nov. 10 with Greek Education Minister Kostas Gabroglou in his residence in Istanbul to talk about Greece's constitutional reform plans.

Istanbul-based Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarch Dimitri Bartholomew has criticized Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras for ignoring him during his initiative to secularize Greece’s constitution, according to local reports, while stressing that he was revered by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. 

The Greek government reached an agreement on Nov. 6 with Ieronymos II, the archbishop of Athens and All Greece, on the conditions to separate the church from the state within the framework of a constitutional reform.

The Church of Greece enjoys autocephaly and is ruled by the archbishop. However, some parts of the country are subject to the jurisdiction of Bartholomew, who is regarded by the worldwide Orthodox community as the ecumenical patriarch.

The Istanbul-based patriarchate criticized Athens in a blog post on Nov. 10 for failing to inform them on the reform before the deal was struck. On the same day, Bartholomew met with Greek Education Minister Kostas Gabroglou in his residence in Istanbul to talk about the reform.

Greek newspaper Ta Nea reported Nov. 12 that Bartholomew reprimanded Gabroglou for failing to contact him before, stressing that both men were born in Istanbul. “Erdoğan shows respect to me. Tsipras cannot look down on me,” Bartholomew was quoted as telling Gabroglou.

“I was not intimidated even by the attacks of a great country like Russia and the attacks of [its President Vladimir] Putin. Will I accept these games that are played against me? You are wrong,” he reportedly added, referring to his patriarchate’s ongoing rift with Moscow over his decision to recognize the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox church.

Tsipras’ planned constitutional reform, which was approved by Ieronymos II, does not change Greece’s official religion, which is Orthodox Christian, but it is bound to bring about a separation between the church and the state.

The Greek constitutional reform stipulates, among other things, that high-ranked officials will not be sworn in by the church. Instead, a secular ceremony will be held.

Moreover, the clergy, traditionally receiving salaries just like other public servants, will not receive remuneration. Instead, the government will pay annual subsidies to the church, amounting to a total worth of salaries that the clergy should receive as civil servants.

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Dimitri Bartholomew, Alexis Tsipras, Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate