Greek Orthodox Church leader calls Turks 'barbarians'

Posted: Friday, December 12, 2003

ATHENS, Greece (AP) The leader of Greece's powerful Orthodox Church, called Turks ''barbarians'' and said the predominantly Muslim country should not join the European Union because ''we cannot live together.''

Archbishop Christodoulos has in the past opposed Turkey's bid to join the EU and equated Greek government support for its membership to a second Ottoman invasion of Europe.

He made the comments Dec. 4 during a church service celebrating the life of Bishop Seraphim, considered a martyr for his faith by the Greek Orthodox Church when he was killed in 1601 by the Ottomans.

''That is why they skewered him,'' Christodoulos said of Seraphim. ''And now these are the ones wanting to join Europe. The barbarians cannot come into the family of Christians. We cannot live together.''

The Socialist Greek government, which has staunchly supported Turkey's EU candidacy, distanced itself from Christodoulos' comments.

Athens hopes admitting Turkey to the EU will help ease tensions between the two neighbors over boundary disputes in the Aegean Sea and the divided island of Cyprus.

Government spokesman Christos Protopapas said admitting Turkey ''serves our national interests, security in the area and economic development.''

Christodoulos recently campaigned for inclusion of a reference to Christianity as Europe's predominant religion in the EU constitution.

EU leaders are to decide in December of next year whether to open entry negotiations with Turkey.

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