Let's Play "What If?" about the Ecumenical Patriarchate

I am curious: Unless there is a MAJOR change in the situation with the Turkish government, when Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew the First dies, the Patriarchal throne will be empty. Turkish law dictates that the Ecumenical Patriarch (a title the Turkish government doesn’t recognize) must be a Turkish citizen of Greek heritage. However, since the Turkish courts shut down the Orthodox seminary, there have been no new Turkish citizens ordained for several years.

The Turkish government has promised to grant Turkish citizenship to other orthodox bishops, and they’ve promised to get around to doing it real soon now.

Now, here comes the speculation, and I apologize in advance for the toes that I will undoubtedly step on.

My view of the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC) is that it is positively resentful at times that there are Orthodox churches out there that look to Constantinople for leadership and not Moscow. Is it possible that Moscow will (or has) cut a deal with Istanbul, so that when Bartholomew dies Moscow will offer an Orthodox bishop of Greek heritage, Turkey will grant this bishop citizenship, and by default (as the only eligible candidate) Constantinople will now have a new Patriarch who is beholden to Moscow.

My big concern is that Ezekiel describes the War of Gog and Magog occurring when Gog gets a hook in his jaw. What if this little favor re: the Patriarchate that Istanbul does for Moscow is the hook that will be in Moscow’s jaw?


How can the Turkish government dictate anything about the Patriarch if it does not recognize the office?

I wish I cared. Wake me when they come to Rome.

We should care, as they are our brothers in faith, even if the church bodies themselves are acting like estranged sisters.


Ever since the fall of Constantinople, the Patriarch has been a subject of whoever was in charge of Constantinople (now renamed Istanbul). When the Ottoman Empire broke up at the end of WW One and the Modern Turkish State was formed, the patriarch became a citizen of the Turkish Republic, subject to its laws like everyone else.

The Turkish government is an Islamic government. It recognizes that the Patriarch is the archbishop over several dioceses within Turkey; it does not recognize any authority the Patriarch may hold outside of Turkey. And while there may be freedom of religion in the Turkish constitution, as a non-Islamic faith its freedoms in a practical sense are very limited.

The seminary, which had been open for literally centuries, was closed because the Turkish justice system declared that it did not meet educational standards – it did not teach the Quran.

The whole matter has to do with the eradication of Christianity within Turkey.

A little history: I’ve run into FAR too many people who claim the Vatican is illegitimate, that it was created out of whole cloth and has no legal justification for existence. Before 1850, the Papal States was recognized internationally as a kingdom, a sovereign nation unto itself, with the Pope as the king. By 1861 the Papal States had been conquered and added to the Modern Italian State. The Pope became a prisoner of the Vatican, unable to leave without the threat of arrest.

Several times Italy tried to come to an agreement to pay the Vatican for the loss of its property, but the Vatican always refused, because these agreements always came with the condition that the Pope would have to abdicate his secular throne and become just another citizen of the Italian state. It was only when Mussolini’s government agreed to the creation of Vatican City State, as a successor to the previous Papal States (i.e., the Pope retained his position as legal sovereign over the state) that the Concordat was signed. By not abdicating, the Pope allowed for the creation of a successor state and continuation of the independence of his office.

By maintaining his position as a sovereign head of state, the Pope has avoided being in the same situation as the Patriarch is now. During WW2 Hitler wanted to have the Pope arrested, but did not because the Vatican was a country separate from Italy. Invading a teeny-tiny neutral country just to arrest the head of state was going a little too far, even for Hitler. If the Pope had been just another Italian citizen, though, nothing would have protected him from Hitler.

The Russians have done something still more worrying. In a statement (can’t find the link now) on Orthodox-Catholic dialogue, they advance a very conservative Orthodox reading of ecclesiology, where each sui iuris church has its own patriarch, and make it clear that no office can exist over and above the various sui iuris churches.

While this is an obvious impediment to Papal claims of universal jurisdiction, it is also (possibly) a veiled threat to the continuation of the office of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the event that he no longer has a sui iuris church to govern (as would be the case if there were no more Turkish Greek Orthodox bishops).

I’m not sure the Russians would accept the idea of someone leaving the Russian, Greek, Serbian, etc. churches to become Patriarch of Constantinople, in the way that an Eastern Catholic bishop might leave their own church if elected Bishop of Rome.

Presumably then the primacy would pass to the next most ancient See. Would that be Antioch?

Russia = the “Third Rome”

Not quite true. During WW2 Hitler wanted to kill the Pope. He didn’t because his generals talked him out of it, not because the Vatican was a tiny neutral country. The Pope was a virtual prisoner in the Vatican during this time period.

As for the hypothesis, no, I doubt that would happen. There may be no seminary in Turkey but many Turkish born Greeks leave the country for an education. There are still eligible people, and as long as there are Greeks in Turkey there will be a pool to draw from.

Sui Juris means “autonomous”, he would have said “Autocephalous” (I’m not sure what that would be in Latin, it means “self-headed”), this is the standard Ecclesiological belief of Orthodox Churches.

While this is an obvious impediment to Papal claims of universal jurisdiction, it is also (possibly) a veiled threat to the continuation of the office of the Ecumenical Patriarch in the event that he no longer has a sui iuris church to govern (as would be the case if there were no more Turkish Greek Orthodox bishops).

It isn’t a veiled threat. The EP also has ecclesiastical territory in Greece and although that territory is administered by the Church of Greece, the end of the Church in Turkey would result in relocating the EP to the area of Greece that is now de jure under him. I imagine in such a scenario the Church of Greece would be the one which would be disolved as the EP took over ecclesiastical duties over all of Greece.

That was the secular claim. The See of Moscow is the sixth most senior though. Alexandria would be the next highest, Not that this has any chance of happening.

In the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel it is “Gog, of the land of Magog.” Gog is a person and Magog is a place.

The prophecy is in Ezekiel 38 and 39. The hook in Gog’s mouth is put there by God himself. God leads Gog by the hook to Israel where Gog is to make war and be destroyed. Gog’s war is with Israel.

It’s about the people of God vs the enemies of God.


Thank you for pointing that out, NineTwo. As far as I know, Rome has never suggested that “sui iuris” = “autocephalous”. (As a matter of fact, as far as I know Rome has never even mentioned the *possibility *of giving an EC Church “autocephalous” status – a status that really doesn’t exist in the Roman Communion.)

Sure it does. Just not for ECs.

Autocephaly is not a possibility for WCs either.

Would you say the Roman church is autocephalous?

Rather than a strict Yes or No, allow me to say that that would be misleading (and you seem to be looking for a Catholic-Orthodox similarity where there isn’t one). That is, I see the Pope’s authority over Western Catholicism as *more *than autocephaly, not less.

In any case, western Catholics (not counting the pope) cannot get autonomous, much less autocephalous, status. Just ask the Anglican Ordinariates.

I should think that we would hold the events currently happening in Iraq with a bit more concern in this case. There is a group well on their way to reviving the caliphate. Should this occur, we will not only lose Hagia Sophia for another few centuries, but may lose all presence in the region.

The seemingly unanimous voice of christian prophecy (literally some parts are from the very first centuries ad) says there will be a great king who will conquer the Muslims and a angelic pope who will win over the Non Florentine Apostolic Churches. There is reason to believe this will happen during this century. The world will be united in one Christian empire until, after a time, morals and observance of the faith grow lax the age of the antichrist will comes. One of the big names in these prophecies is saint and doctor Hildegaard of Bingen in her Liber Scivias, but there are a*** lot*** more.

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