Prior to his February election as archbishop, the 70-year-old Ieronymos was bishop of Thebes in central Greece where he was appointed in 1981. He is regarded as a moderate, very active and energetic and in favor of good relations with the Patriarchate Patriarch Bartholomeos has stressed tolerance and reconciliation throughout his ministry. Since the late Christodoulos believed that the Patriarch was a tool of the Turkish government and ambitiously attempting to return the Orthodox Church of Greece to the Fener Patriarchate, it would be natural for him to be opposed to the Patriarch
Monday, May 12, 2008
ISTANBUL – Turkish Daily News
Istanbul has had an unusual visitor this past weekend, Archbishop Ieronymos of Greece and Athens who was elected head of the Orthodox Church of Greece last February following the death of Archbishop Christodoulos. He came as the guest of Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos.
No one needs reminding of the antiquity of the Greek Orthodox Church or that Orthodox Greeks enjoyed considerable freedom and mobility during the Ottoman Empire. But during the 19th century the rise of nationalism led to dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, under the influence of ideas stemming from the French Revolution. The Greeks revolted in 1821 and they were supported by the Greek Orthodox Church that in turn owed its allegiance to what they considered their mother church, the one in Istanbul (Constantinople as they continue to refer to the city).
In 1833, Greece's National Assembly declared the Greek Church independent of the church in Istanbul. Unlike some other national churches, it has never disengaged from Greece's public affairs although it has at times found itself at odds with whatever government was in control. In the 1980s, the government of the time threatened to confiscate the extensive property owned by the church. In an attempt to counter the move, a delegation that included Christodoulos, who would later come to the head of the Orthodox Church of Greece, came to Istanbul to determine whether the property could be transferred over to the Fener Patriarchate. Recently, the late archbishop spearheaded a campaign to prevent a move by the Greek government to eliminate showing a person's religion on their identity card, a requirement of the European Union.
Elected in 1998 to be the head of the church of Greece, Christodoulos was a staunch nationalist and while that might not have pleased everybody and especially those who were in favor of Greece's accession to the European Union. He was widely popular in those quarters. He was only 69 when he died in January of cancer and thousands attended his funeral. As a nationalist, he resisted what he saw as the Patriarchate's attempts to interfere with his church's business. Bartholomeos became patriarch in 1991 and after 1998 there were a number of reported clashes between the two men if one believes press reports, perhaps unavoidable since Patriarch Bartholomeos has stressed tolerance and reconciliation throughout his ministry. Since Christodoulos believed that the patriarch was a tool of the Turkish government and ambitiously attempting to return the Orthodox Church of Greece to the jurisdiction of the Fener Patriarchate, it would be natural for him to be opposed to the patriarch. Ironically it was only years before Christodoulos was on the committee that came to Istanbul to explore that very action.
But now that Christodoulos has departed the scene, there is hope that the troubling issue over the management of certain dioceses in Greece can be resolved. And that is what the new archbishop brings with him to Istanbul.
Born Ioannis Liapis, he chose the name Ieronymos (Jerome in English) when he entered the priesthood. St. Jerome is particularly known for his extensive writings on theological subjects and history rather unlike the present day Jerome who is seen as very active and energetic. Prior to his election, the 70-year-old Ieronymos was bishop of Thebes in central Greece a post he was appointed to in 1981. He is regarded as a moderate and as favoring good relations with the Patriarchate. He has said that he will continue the legacy of his predecessor as well as the business in which his predecessor was engaged when he died. After studying archaeology and theology at the University of Athens, he studied in Germany and holds degrees from the Universities of Gratz and Munich. He speaks German fluently rather than English. With his foreign education and his previous appointments to a variety of tasks, open-minded is the adjective used to describe him by many.
Archbishop Ieronymos in Istanbul
The Archbishop of Athens and Greece Ieronymos was on a three-day official visit to the Fener Patriarchate, his first visit to the Patriarchate since he was elected archbishop. He is a distinguished-looking gentleman who stands about half a head higher than the patriarch and observing him at a reception over the weekend, it was clear that he holds Patriarch Bartholomeos in respect and high regard. It seems he was late in arriving but his only complaint was the traffic in the city, the same complaint that millions of Istanbul residents have every day.
Speaking at the reception, Archbishop Ieronymos said, "Conditions have ripened now and we have all understood that we should put the differences behind us. I want to assure you that I will do everything in my power together with my brothers, the archbishops, to achieve an absolute coexistence with you. Rest assured, your Holiness, that from today, we will plow deeply into the ecclesiastical field to cultivate the church, unity, coexistence and cooperation in our common route."
Bartholomeos spoke highly about the personality and morality of the new archbishop. He also underlined the close ties that have existed between the Church of Greece and the Patriarchate for over 12 centuries and stressed that the church does not accept divisions.
On Sunday both participated in the liturgy at the church of the Balikli Monastery. Balikli was originally named Zoodochos Pege, the life-giving spring, an epithet of the Holy Virgin. One legend has it that the Byzantine Emperor Justinian had a vision of it with a chapel and many people around it. Balikli Church was once one of many built in the area by Byzantine emperors where on Ascension Day the emperor and members of his court used to come to worship. The present church was built in 1833. Yesterday was the feast day of Zoodochos Pege so it was appropriate to attend worship service there.
Patrik- Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos (right) with Archbishop Ieronymos at the Patriarchate in Fener, Istanbul. (Photo: Nikolaos Manginas)