Istanbul (AsiaNews) – Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I has announced his intention to appeal to the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg over violations against the Orthodox community and its foundations, unjustly expropriated of lands and buildings by Ankara’s Direction for Religious Foundations.
Speaking to faithful in St Georges’ Parish, close to the Byzantine walls of Istanbul, the Patriarch affirmed that the decision to go to the Strasbourg court was made by the Synod.
“We have and you have come here - he said - to celebrate this religious ceremony in a parish that is facing many difficulties. Unfortunately it is not alone. The problem is that this parish and its community, as is the case with many other s of the Church of Constantinople, have been abusively declared mazbut (occupied) by the Direction for Religious Foundations. This means that we cannot claim any rights to the management of the properties of this community, nor proceed with the election of its administrative board. As a result of this we have no right to manage that which was left to us by our forefathers. The only thing we are allowed to carry out in these places are religious functions. Unfortunately this is fate of this parish and many other parishes of the Church of Constantinople”.
“In the court yard of this parish – the Patriarch continued – the building which housed the community’s school still exists. It unfortunately has been transformed into a gaming hall and its management has been ceded by the authorities to a private individual, who in turn compensated them with rent”.
“In an attempt to put an end to these injustices which we are being subjected to –added Bartholomew I – the Synod has reached a decision; to appeal firstly to the State Judiciary of Turkey, then, if all else should fail to the European Court in Strasbourg, following the example of the orphanage on Prince Buyukada Island, in the hopes that in this case too, justice will be done”. (ref. AsiaNews.it, 29/11/2007 The Supreme Court in Strasburg allows Patriarchs’ appeal for Buyukada orphanage).
“We do not want – he concluded – special treatment, but neither can we allow our rights to be trampled on or our identity and the cultural heritage entrusted us by our forefathers be erased”.