A Greek Orthodox priest serving at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul (Constantinople) was recently arrested by the Turkish police for stealing a valuable pocket watch from an antique shop.
Agathangelos Sisko was arrested on Monday but was released soon after following the intervention of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The moment when Sisko is apparently stealing the watch was caught by a security camera. Turkish TV stations have been extensively reporting on the case:
Ecumenical Patriarchate places priest on indefinite leave
According to a report by National Herald which first broke the news, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew placed the priest on indefinite leave.
Sources told the Greek American newspaper that Bartholomew is terribly troubled and saddened by the incident.
The owner of the antique store in Istanbul told the media that “it is a shame because the perpetrator is a member of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and he should have thought about the institution he represents and been more careful.”
Siskos has acknowledged he is the person appearing in the video but refused to make any further comment.
The priest is reportedly the Arch-Guardian of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. He arrived at the Ecumenical Patriarchate from the city of Kastoria in Greece as a layman and later was ordained.
Importance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Because of its historical location as the capital of the former Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and its role as the mother church of most modern Orthodox churches, Constantinople holds a special place of honor within Orthodoxy.
It serves as the seat for the Ecumenical Patriarch, who enjoys the status of primus inter pares (first among equals) among the world’s Eastern Orthodox prelates and is regarded as the representative and spiritual leader of Eastern Orthodox Christians.
The status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is not officially recognized by the Republic of Turkey; Turkey only recognizes the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarchate over the Greek minority in Istanbul, and the islands of Imvros and Tenedos.
Since 1586 the Ecumenical Patriarchate has had its headquarters in the relatively modest Church of St George in the Fener (Phanar) district of Istanbul. The current territory of the Patriarchate is significantly reduced from what it was at its height. Its canonical territory currently includes most of modern Turkey, northern Greece and Mount Athos, the Dodecanese and Crete.
Bartholomew I has been the 270th archbishop of Constantinople and Ecumenical Patriarch since 2 November 1991.
Born as Dimitrios Arhondonis, in the village of Agios Theodoros on the island of Imbros, his tenure has been characterized by intra-Orthodox cooperation, intra-Christian and inter-religious dialogue, and formal visits to Roman Catholic, Old Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim leaders seldom previously visited by an ecumenical patriarch.
His efforts to promote religious freedom and human rights, his initiatives to advance religious tolerance among the world’s religions, as well as his efforts to promote ecology and the protection of the environment, have been widely noted, and these endeavors have earned him the title “The Green Patriarch”.