Istanbul (AsiaNews) – The Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate celebrated its foremost feast day today, the day of Saint Andrew, the Apostle of Constantinople, but it also marked the successful end of a legal battle with the Turkish state over the Buyukada orphanage. The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, after meeting with a delegation from the Holy See led by newly appointed Card Kurt Koch, the new president of the Council for Christian Unity, expressed his emotions in an interview with AsiaNews.
“Today is a great day for our Great Mother Church. The orphanage on Princes Island (Buyukada) has been given back to us. What we inherited from our ancestors has also been returned to us. We could not tolerate the injustice done to us. We first turned to Turkey’s courts. Since we lost all of our cases, we turned to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which gave us justice,” the Patriarch said.
The implications of the return to the Patriarchate of the ‘Tapu’ (title deed) are of great significance. “The Turkish government did not appeal against the court’s ruling, starting instead the procedures to return us the orphanage,” Bartholomew said. “I want to stress the tapu by Turkish authorities is issued in the name of our Patriarchate, as Rum Patrikanesi. This means not only the return of the orphanage but also the official recognition of our Patriarchate as a legal person. This is a positive step.”
“Our struggle must teach us never to put down our spiritual tools and always trust Divine Providence, which knows when and how to overcome human obstacles and weaknesses,” the Ecumenical Patriarch said.
Ioannis Ktistakis, one of the lawyers that represented the Fener (the Patriarchate) in the case, spoke to AsiaNews about the case after the Ecumenical Patriarch received the tapu.
“We fought to re-establish civil rights in Turkey. Our struggle was first about rights, and only secondarily about a title deed. It was about re-establishing rights in this country as in any other country since the rights of a centuries-old institution like the Ecumenical Patriarchate had been violated.” (picture by Nikos Mangina).