pope benedictus xvi is slated to visit visit turkey "officially" tomorrow. since he is a "head of state", too, that is supposed to be an "official" state visit to president ahmet n. sezer but benedictus xvi is also coming as an invitee of his orthodox quasi-counterpart, patriarch bartholomeos 1.
if you ask me, o kyrios bartholomeos is the best and ablest politician alive in turkey - though that is for another posting. suffice now to say, this double invitiation also leads to a load of political double entendre. o kyrios bartholomeos is and has been a persistent headache in turkey's limited-scope global vision. he is the nominal head of the some 250 million orthodox christians, most of them living in russia and its ex-sovietic periphery, and slavs of the balkans numbering no less than 50 million. his "ecumenical" celestial authority is well recognized. however, his dubious presence and status in "secularly moslem" turkey has practically undermined his authority. there is an orthodox patriarch in russia since his sway over the steppes loosened in about the 18th century, greek ones in jerusalem, alexandria and the archdiocese in greece, in effective command also of the monastery in mt. athos, the breeding ground of the elite of the orthodox clergy, openly vies istanbul for supremacy, if not primacy. archbishop christodoulos is as opposed to o kyrios bartholomeos as turkey.
the pope's visit can be viewed as a tacit but very loud appeal to turkey to concede the presence of a non-moslem, particularly christian presence in the country and recognize its rights. as a matter of fact, vatican's spokesmen openly state that fact.
bartholomeos 1 is a turkish citizen. turks who go crazy with joy if one of their own plays in a major league european team somehow can find only grief and vexation that a turk comes to lead a quarter of a billion people and fail to find pride in that. worse, the state apparatchiks and inept politickers fail to see the power it affords.
turkey, though officially unspoken, is very much disturbed by the title "ecumenic" that the patriarch uses. traditionally, ecumenic is the sanctioned title that comes with the position and the way to address the patriarch. yet, whenever, especially a western official refers to o kyrios bartholomeos as such, displeasure reigns in ankara. a dive into the history of that psychology hints that the apprehension leads back to the ottoman heritage: first, turkey may be fearing that admitting the ecumenic status of the patriarchate will remind of istanbul's (and the marmara straits') prior ellenicophonic, byzantine past. this fear becomes more real when one remembers that the first break from the ottoman empire was the very orthodox greek state in 1829. then, the serbians had long been restive at the time the greek uprisal began and they were orthodox, too. throughout the 19th century, turkey kept losing its territorial holdings to russia in one form or another, who kept defeating turkey in war after war it entered under the pretext of being the guardian of the orthodox christians under muslim rule. naturally, wary of russian progress, the states of the west moved in to take the christian ottomans under their auspicious wings as well.
the result was a terminally dissolved empire...
the above trek in time also outlines the very superficial and intellectually constipated crusade phobic interpretation of history in turkey - how christians flocked together like birds of a feather and wolfed down the wounded muslim ottomans greedily. they finally divided anatolia, expropriated istanbul and forced turkey to accept the conditions of the sévres treaty - albeit, at the end of an extremely unnecessary war which turkey joined voluntarily, fought alongside very christian germans and austrians and their allies and lost.
the dark shadow of sévres, the ultimate territorial degradation and political humiliation of the ottomans is still reflected in the turkish psyche - so much so that the world wide leadership of a turkish citizen in the spiritual world and the recognition of a christian presence in the country that immensely outweighs the remaining 1500 or so turkish orthodox christians is instantly translated into fears of loss and deprivation.
an(other) oriental malady looms here, that of avoiding what you do not want to hear at the risk of undergoing what you don't want to happen in your life!