On Tuesday, May 22, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and his wife paid a formal visit to Metropolitan Iakovos, spiritual leader of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago. Also in attendance were Greek Orthodox clergy and lay leaders, as well as members of the Turkish Consulate in Chicago. “He is the highest ranking Turkish official to make such a visit to the Metropolis,” notes the website of the Metropolis of Chicago in the corresponding article.
On the other hand, a great dispute has risen among Orthodox Christians all across the world, among people who are apparently not ignorant of the truth.
Davutoglu attended an event hosted by Chicago’s Skopjans and declared “I feel like a Macedonian,” appeared at the Metropolis on Tuesday under the guise of a personal visit and to supposedly discuss “progress” on the issue of the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. What followed — as described in the press release issued by the Metropolis itself — was an exercise in Turkish propaganda.
According to the Metropolis, Davutoglu presented more hopeful (or empty, depending on your point of view) words on Halki and the religious freedom of the Orthodox in Turkey. As has become expected (and remains as disingenuous as ever), Davutoglu tied progress on religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Orthodox in Turkey to that of Muslims in Greece. What was unexpected — and astonishing — is that the Metropolis’ press release claimed the Metropolitan and Davutoglu agreed on this matter (the press release also adopted Ankara’s talking point of calling the Muslims of Greece the “Turks” of Greece). Finally, the Metropolis’ press release allowed Davutoglu to celebrate his foreign policy — and we will once again note that Davutoglu has not applied his “zero problems with neighbors” doctrine to Greece or Cyprus — as progressive.
The Metropolis has attempted to minimize the effect of its ill-conceived press release by disavowing (through the Bishop) any political purpose or role in politics. The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, in addition to its spiritual leadership, has assumed political leadership of the community. Recent moves — like this visit and last year’s honoring by the Archons of Turkish Minister Bagis — call the judgment of certain hierarchies and certain Archons into question.
The political leadership of the community has consistently and stridently prioritized the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarch. We wonder how this leadership feels about the Metropolis’ press release, and the Bishop of Mokissos’ unsatisfying response to a critique by the Hellenic American Leadership Council’s Endy Zemenides. While some could say, you can’t expect for a clergyman (even a Hierarch leading few hundred thousand Greek Americans) to be 100% politically correct, the exchange emails between Bishop Demetrios and Zemenides, shows a much deeper problem that our Church in America needs to deal with.