Patriarch Restores Ties With Greek Church
.c The Associated Press
ISTANBUL, Turkey (AP) - Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's Orthodox Christians, has decided to restore ties with the head of the Greek church after a bitter dispute over control of dioceses in parts of Greece.
Bartholomew, the Istanbul-based spiritual leader of about 300 million Orthodox Christians, suspended spiritual and administrative relations with Archbishop Christodoulos on April 30 after Christodoulos appointed three bishops in northern Greece without approval.
Greece's government intervened in the dispute and on Friday, Bartholomew's Holy Synod, or governing council, said it agreed to restore ties with Christodoulos. It cited a recent decision by the Greek Church recognizing Bartholomew's oversight of the dioceses.
The Holy Synod ``decided to restore the ties that were cut with Christodoulos,'' a statement said. It ``desires that the two churches now can continue their religious and spiritual duties in peace and togetherness.''
Although Bartholomew's church in Istanbul directly controls several Greek Orthodox churches around the world, it doesn't directly control the Orthodox Church of Greece, which gained independence from the Ecumenical Patriarchate in 1850.
The territories in dispute - which include Thessaloniki, Greece's second-largest city - were part of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 100 years after Greece won its independence. They were handed over to Athens to run in 1928, but titular control still belongs to the ecumenical patriarch.
The announcement by Bartholomew came after the Church of Greece on May 28 reinforced a 1928 agreement between the churches regarding the northern Greek dioceses.
The synod in Istanbul said in turn that it would recognize ``the three metropolitans who were elected if certain conditions were fulfilled.'' It did not elaborate.
Bartholomew and Christodoulos were expected to hold a joint liturgy service in Istanbul to seal the agreement.
The patriarchate in Istanbul traces its roots to the Orthodox Greek Byzantine Empire, which collapsed when the Muslim Ottoman Turks conquered the city in 1453.
06/05/04 08:58 EDT