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    » 06/30/2007, 00.00

    TURKEY

    “Concerns” over sentence which denies ecumenical rights to Patriarch of Constantinople



    The Patriarch of Constantinople has expressed his concern following a recent verdict defining him as a “Turkish subject” spiritual guide only to the Greek Orthodox minority in Turkey. Experts speak of a “political” move which goes against the European programmes of the government, a dangerous precedent which may influence the fate of the Country’s religious community.

    Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The Patriarch of Constantinople has expressed his “profound sorrow” at a sentence which June 26 contested the ecumenical right of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, defining it as a Turkish body responsible for the worship of the Greek orthodox minority in the country.  According to the Court, Bartholomew I cannot bear the title “Ecumenical Patriarch” for the Orthodox world.  Religious affairs experts in Turkey describe it as a “political” verdict, which raises “concerns” for the fate of religious minorities in the country.

    In a statement published yesterday the Patriarchate clarified that “the primacy of the Patriarchate has been an honorary, spiritual and historical orthodox title for over 17 centuries.  In the Christian Orthodox world the primacy establishes the hierarchy and expresses a pure religious state, this has theological relevance”.

    The Court sentence reaffirms a long established approach to the Patriarchate, the aim to downsize its role and its authority.  Diplomats note that this position is contradictory for a country which has placed the European dimension as a milestone since its foundation.  However, what greatly worries these analysts is the context in which the verdict came about.  The court was called to examine the case of a Turkish Orthodox priest of Bulgarian origins, who the Holy Synod had removed from office, because of an “unfitting and inadequate behaviour”. In the sentencing – experts note – the Supreme Court came down on the side of the Patriarchate, but at the same time used the opportunity to pass down a political judgement on the juridical state of the Patriarchate.

    The “primacy” feared by authorities and public opinion  

    In order to justify its verdict the Court turned to the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, which classified the Patriarchate of Constantinople as a religious minority rather than “ecumenical”.  In Orthodoxy each Church is autonomous for jurisdiction, but the Patriarch of Constantinople has long covered a role “primus inter pares”, enforced by the historical value of the Church of the ancient eastern Christian capital.  The judges then clarified that, while it has the right to remain on Turkish soil, the Patriarchate “is subject to Turkish law”, while Turkey cannot give “special status” to the minority who live there. The Orthodox and Catholic communities continue to lack juridical weight, the ministers of worship and bishops are still not recognised, seminaries remain closed and the Patriarch must be by law a Turkish citizen.  The qualifying “ecumenical” linked to the Patriarchate irritates some political groups in Turkey as well as some sectors of public opinion who accuse the Fanar of wanting to build a foreign enclave in the country, or create extra-territorial rights similar to those enjoyed by Vatican City.  Accusations which the Patriarchate has repeatedly denied, asking instead that is basic rights be recognised. 

    “Dangerous” precedent

     The Supreme Court sentencing is an alarm bell given the precedents.  In 1947 the same Court contested the right to property of minority religious foundations, as was set out by a 1933 ruling.  That ruling legalized all of the properties bought to that date and allowed for the acquisition of new properties.  With the 1947 sentence religious foundations were arbitrarily stripped of all property bought after 1933. (NT)

     

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    See also

    29/01/2008 TURKEY
    Divided in Ravenna, Russian and Estonian Orthodox to talk
    Bartholomew I is promoting a meeting between the Moscow Patriarchate and the Church of Estonia. Last October the Russians quit the Ravenna meeting because of the presence of Estonian representatives. In concluding the prayer for Christian unity, the ecumenical patriarch expressed his desire to see the process of unification speed up, stressing how ‘historical’ was the joint declaration made by Catholics and Orthodox in Ravenna. He also talks about spreading the Gospel in Hong Kong.

    01/12/2005 TURKEY
    Closer dialogue between Vatican and Ecumenical Patriarchate
    The Joint International Commission for Theological Dialogue should be convened very soon. Vatican delegation visits Fanar neighbourhood on the Feast Day of St Andrew.

    30/11/2010 TURKEY
    The Turkish government now recognises us officially, says Bartholomew I
    Coming on the eve of the feast day of Saint Andrew the Apostle, the return of the Buyukada orphanage is extremely significant for Orthodox Christians and marks an important moment for Turkish Christians. A Vatican delegation led by Card Kurt Koch attends the celebrations.

    18/12/2008 TURKEY - RUSSIA
    Bartholomew I: Turkish bureaucracy is trying to make us disappear
    The Turkish foreign ministry and the state bureaucracy are trying to diminish the importance of the patriarchate for all of Orthodoxy. The shortcomings and errors of the report on minorities in Turkey. Putin hopes to visit Bartholomew.

    28/04/2008 TURKEY
    Ecumenical patriarch: Easter, Christ’s victory over death belongs to all Christians
    In his Easter message Bartholomew underlines how the resurrection, which the Orthodox world celebrates today, has changed the reality of all those who have faith in Him. A prayer for peace in the world.



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