Monday, January 31, 2011
I appreciate Rick’s post (here) concerning British MP Frank Field’s efforts to require the General Synod of the Church of England to approve the consecration of women bishops by ending the C of E’s exemption from the county’s gender equality laws.
Sadly this sort of interference in ecclesial and episcopal affairs is not an isolated incident.
Of course China tops the list when it comes to arranging for the consecration of bishops not approved by the Holy See and interfering with the ministry of those bishops in communion with Rome of whom the Chinese authorities do not approve. (See here, here and here).
While China may be the most conspicuous offender in this regard it is by no means the only one.
The Turkish government reserves the right to approve the election of Orthodoxy’s Ecumenical Patriarch. This is bad enough, but it insists that the Patriarch be a Turkish citizen and the Turkish state closed the only seminary in Constantinople (a/k/a Istanbul) a number of years ago. This is wrong in itself but it also has the effect of severely curtailing the pool of possible candidates. (See here and here).
The Israeli government likewise reserves the right to approve the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem, a prerogative that Jordan and the Palestinian Authority also claim to exercise. (See here and here).
Like almost everything in the Middle East, the role of the Patriarchate in the Orthodox Christian community in the Holy Land is complex (e.g. The 65,000 member Orthodox community is ethnically almost entirely Arab with only a few hundred Greeks, yet the latter hold all of the key positions of power. The Patriarchate holds large tracks of land in Jerusalem, and is inclined to engage in land transactions with Israelis that may be lucrative for the Patriarchate but which Palestinian Christians may find problematic). (See here).
Of course state interference with the clerics of a particular religious group can take forms that are more subtle than claiming a veto over the appointment of a bishop or patriarch. (See here).
This is to say nothing of the severe restrictions on Christian practice and even atrocities committed against Christians in Muslim countries throughout the Middle East.
Needless to say, religious freedom, “the source and synthesis” of all basic human rights (Centesimus Annus ¶ 47), is under great strain throughout the world.