Far right leader enraged by the word "ecumenical" on gift presented to Bartholomew I
The leader of a far right political party in Turkey voiced a strong criticism after a popular Turkish football club's uniform was presented as a gift to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with the latter's name and title written on the back of the uniform.
Reacting to the title that read "Ecumenical Patriarch," Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), said that the incident was "one of the recent provocations that have been targeting national unity."
The chain of events began when Bartholomew I, the 270th Archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch since November 1991, replied to a question about his guess who would be the champion in the Turkish football league this year, saying it would "hundred percent" be Trabzon SC, the last champion.
Bartholomew I was later presented the club's uniform when he visited the city of Trabzon to attend a service in the Greek Orthodox Sumela Monastery, built in the fourth century in the Pontic Mountains.
The uniform was presented to him by Turkish businessperson Efkan Baskan.
Bahceli's protests followed. He said:
"This disturbing scheme is way beyond a scandal. It is a highly provocative, destructive and abusive challenge. It is apparent that this ridiculous act is unacceptable for any conscientious mind and constitutes an insult to citizens who are fans of our Trabzon football club. No ecumenical institution and position exists in Turkey."
Bahceli went on to say that the the archbishop was only a cleric serving under Istanbul's district governorship of Fatih, and he could have no other status.
Ecumenical patriarch after the Ottoman conquest of Istanbul
When Constantinople fell to the Ottoman army in 1453, the Ottoman rule recognized the Ecumenical Patriarch Gennadius II as the ethnarch of the conquered Orthodox peoples, with increased authority over the territories of the Eastern patriarchates and over the Balkan countries, as well as farther afield.
Since 1586 the patriarchate has been located in the Phanar, the northern section of Istanbul, having lost both its cathedral of Hagia Sophia and its historic quarter to the Muslims. The small church of St. George serves as the cathedral for the patriarch, who must be a native Turkish citizen elected by the synod of metropolitans.
The Turkish government considers the patriarchate as serving the religious needs of Greeks in Istanbul only.