Hey Reuters: Historic details really matter in Istanbul

Istanbul is the kind of place in which the past often seems to be just as real, or even more real, than the present.

Sometimes this shows up in the headlines.

For example, back in 2004 I visited the center of Eastern Orthodox life there and learned the history of the stark, black, closed gate out front. At that time, I wrote this for Scripps Howard:

ISTANBUL – There are two front gates into the walled compound that protects the home of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Eastern Orthodox Christians.

Visitors enter through a door secured by a guardhouse, locks and a metal-screening device. They cannot enter the Phanar’s main gate because it was welded shut in 1821 after the Ottoman Turks hanged Patriarch Gregory V from its lintel. The black doors have remained sealed ever since.

A decade ago, bombers who tried to open this gate left a note: “We will fight until the Chief Devil and all the occupiers are chased off; until this place, which for years has contrived Byzantine intrigues against the Muslim people of the East is exterminated. … Patriarch you will perish!”

Please keep in mind that the capital of Byzantium fell to the Turks in 1453. This is a corner of the word in which more than a few people have long attention spans.

Thus, the thrust of the following Reuters report didn’t really surprise me:

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey is investigating an alleged plot to assassinate Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, and has stepped up security around the patriarchate in Istanbul, his spokesman said. …

Spokesman Dositheos Anagnostopoulos said the patriarch had not received any direct threats but had learned of the alleged plot from Turkish media, which was later confirmed to the patriarchate by Turkish police.

“Later in the day, police informed the patriarchate of a possible threat and dispatched additional police officers,” Anagnostopoulos said.

Turkish broadcaster NTV said one man had been arrested in relation to the alleged plot, after state prosecutors in central Kayseri province received an anonymous letter saying there was a plan to assassinate Bartholomew on May 29, the anniversary of the Ottoman conquest of present-day Istanbul.

Like I said, this didn’t surprise me very much, in light of unfolding events in that region. So what DID surprise me in this report?

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