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These Turkish Threats Against the Ecumenical Patriarch May Have Russian Sources

CONSTANTINOPLE – The shirt of the Trabzonspor soccer team with the name “Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew” that was emblazoned on its back that was given to Bartholomew recently by the Greek players on that team, Manolis Siopis and Tassos Bakasetas, has caused the Patriarch to receive threats that may conceal the hand of Russia.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government partner, Devlet Bakhceli attacked the Ecumenical Patriarch, who stated “there is no ecumenical institution in Turkey.”

Among other things, Bakhceli spoke of provocations and “an insult to our esteemed citizens who love Trabzonspor” and with his reaction he evoked similar feelings towards the Ecumenical Patriarch among Bakhceli’s followers.

“The provocations that have been made one after the other in the last few days and the sabotages aimed at the spirit of our national unity and solidarity, will not be able to divert us from our path. One of these challenges is the gift of the Trabzonspor shirt with the inscription ‘ecumenical’ to the Roman Patriarch of the Phanar Bartholomew, who came to Trabzon for the 9th time to officiate at the Sumela Monastery. In addition to being scandalous, this heartbreaking plot is a provocation with a very strong tone of incitement, destruction, and harassment. It is obvious that this disgrace, which is an insult to our esteemed citizens who love our Trabzonspor club, is unacceptable to any person of conscience. There is no ‘Ecumenical’ institution and job description in Turkey. According to the Treaty of Lausanne, since it provided that the Roman Patriarch of the Phanar should not be involved in political and administrative affairs, but only provide spiritual services to our Greek Orthodox citizens in our country, he will have no other status than ‘religious official,’” said Bakhceli’s statement.

As the newspaper Ta Nea noted in a recent edition, Moscow itself may be hiding behind this reaction.

In Athens and the Phanar, they consider that the timing of this reaction by Bakhceli and other Turkish officials who followed may not be part of Turkey’s constant hostile attitude towards the Patriarchate or even Ankara’s tactics in the more general Greek-Turkish confrontation.

What is certain is that the ecumenicity of the Patriarch and the Patriarchate is not something that is often referred to by Ankara.

After all, Turkey, a Muslim country, does not have many reasons to do so. Why should it be concerned with what Patriarch Bartholomew is called? On the contrary, as Ta Nea points out, the country that systematically questions the role and title of the Patriarch is Russia, as well as the Moscow Patriarchate.

The Russian church disputes the primacy of the ‘First Throne of Orthodoxy’, the Church of Constantinople, with the obvious aim of itself adding that title to the prestige rooted in its numerous Christian flock.

It is somewhere here, in the constant activities of Russia and the Moscow Patriarchate, that Bakhceli’s reaction to the Trabzonspor shirt donated by the Greek soccer players to the Ecumenical Patriarch finds an explanation. Why is this happening? The answer lies in the very close relations between Russia and Turkey, which have been further strengthened during the war in Ukraine. It is not only in the defense field (the Russian S-400 missiles that Turkey has obtained) that the two sides have become close.

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