High Ranking Greek Clerics Became Turkish Citizens

CONSTANTINOPLE – The Turkish government recently granted Turkish citizenship to another 10 high-level clerics of the Ecumenical Patriarchate out of which four are Metropolitans. Specifically the Metropolitans are the following: Metropolitan Emmanuel of France who is today the par excellence protégé of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. Metropolitan Emmanuel is said to be the successor of Archbishop Demetrios when the time comes. Also Metropolitan Athenagoras Cydonia (Asia Minor), Arsenios of Austria, and Maximos of Sylibria became Turks.

From the Patriarchal administrative inner circle the following clerics became Turkish citizens: the Chief Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod Archimandrite Bartholomew, the Undersecretary of the Holy Synod Ioakim, the Grand Archdeacon Andrew, the Second of the Deacons Theodoros, the Grand Syngelos Ambrose, and the Grand Librarian Archimandrite Agathangelos. All of them are Greek citizens.

In the past few years many other hierarchs have become Turks as well, including: Metropolitans Evgenios of Ierapetra, Nektarios of Petra, Anmdrew of Arkalohorion, Amfilohios of Kissamos, Ambrose of Karpathos, Chrysostomos of Symi, Gennadios of Italy, Tarasios of Buenos Aires, Sotirios of Pisidia, Amfilohios of New Zealand, and Nikitas of Dardanelia, Director of the Athenagoras Institute of Orthodox Theology in California.

From the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, only Metropolitan Alexios of Atlanta became a Turk.

Approximately 35 Metropolitans have acquired the Turkish citizenship thus far and that creates new dynamics for the biological rejuvenation of the Ecumenical patriarchate and also it changes the correlations and calculations about the succession to the Ecumenical Throne between those hierarchs who were born in Turkey and are Turkish citizens by birth and those who became Turks by naturalization with a special decree of the current Turkish government.

The candidates for the Patriarchal Throne must necessarily be Turkish citizens according to regulations imposed by Turkey. Patriarch Athenagoras was the exception. Athenagoras was Archbishop of America when he was elected Patriarch through the interference of the United States; he traveled to Constantinople on President Harry Truman’s Air Force One. When Athenagoras arrived at the Kemal Ataturk Airport in Constantinople, a representative of the Turkish government went into the plane and handed him the Turkish citizenship.

Also, the Turkish government totally controls the list of the candidates for the Patriarchal Throne. The government has the right to delete any name from the list and it authorizes the final list from which the Synod makes the selection. A classic case was in 1970 the one of Metropolitan Meliton (Hatzis) of Chalcedon, whom the Turkish government deleted from the list.

TNH has learned that the efforts of Patriarch Bartholomew to secure through the Turkish government the granting of the Turkish citizenship to Metropolitans archpastoring in the Eparchies abroad and also those who serve in Patriarchal compound have created many “silent reactions” among the hierarchs who are Turks by birth because they might lose the Throne to a naturalized Turkish hierarch form Greece or from Europe.

Although officially there is no issue today of succession to the Patriarchy since Bartholomew is in good health both mentally and physically, in private conversations the issue is discussed discretely at the Phanar as well as in Athens.