Orthodox patriarchate credits citizenship plan with "saving" the institution
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan saved the future of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate by offering Turkish citizenship to a number of archbishops in 2009, said patriarchate spokesman Father Dositheos Anagnostopulos over the weekend. Anagnostopulos said there were 12 archbishops on the patriarchate's Spiritual Board at the time. "Most of [them] are very old," he explained. "In order to become a member of this board, one has to be a Turkish citizen. If the patriarch died one day, it seemed unlikely that a new patriarch would be elected from the board [due to the members' age]. This danger has now passed. At a luncheon on Buyukada [Istanbul] in August 2009, the prime minister said the problem with the Spiritual Board would be overcome if archbishops applied to become Turkish citizens. He assured us the applicants would be granted citizenship." Anagnostopulos hailed Erdogan's remarks as making "the most positive moment in my lifetime." He added that Erdogan and Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc were the first state officials to express their wish to reopen the closed Greek Orthodox seminary on Heybeliada, one of Istanbul's Princes' Islands.