07/09/2007, 00.00
TURKEY
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The court had no jurisdiction to deny the patriarchate its ecumenical status, says Bartholomew

A group of Turkish extremists try to prevent non-Turkish members of the sacred Synod from entering the Phanar. The patriarch talks about the difficult situation Christians face in the country. He remembers the murder of Father Santoro, journalist Hrant and three Protestant men in Malatya. He remembers his predecessor, Athenagoras, and the latter’s meeting with Pope Paul VI.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – More police officers were deployed in front of the Phanar, the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate when a Turkish nationalist lawyer, Kemal Kerinçsiz, took advantage of a Turkish Appeals Court’s ruling denying the Patriarchate its ecumenical status, to try to enforce the decision by denying entry to five members of the Synod who are not Turkish but come from the world’s five continents.

Patriarch Bartholomew spoke about the ruling, which expresses ignorance, and the difficult situation Christians face in the country. He presided over a mass in the Church of Saint Domenca, which went off without any disturbance. The members of the Sacred Synod were present, all 12, six from Turkey’s archdioceses and six from the five continent, who are appointed for a one-year rotating mandate. A group of scientists was also present.

Taking advantage of the latter’s presence; Bartholomew said “that we live in an age in which the lack of knowledge or even ignorance is treated as knowledge. Nowadays this is a widespread phenomenon because man overestimates his intellectual capabilities and very often wants to promote or impose values that have negative effects on society. Thus we have some journalists, intellectuals and professional writers who claim to be specialists on issues concerning the ecumenical Patriarchate and say that according to them the Patriarchate is not ecumenical. With their views they poison public opinion and their ignorance is coupled with prejudice and wickedness. The recent decision by the Istanbul Appeals Court to rule on issues that do not fall under its jurisdiction are one example of that. A few extremists have gathered outside the Patriarchate for this reason, and not the first time, in order to prevent members of the Sacred Synod to meet. Because some of the latter belong to non-Turkish archdioceses they have no right to participate since according to the extremists the Patriarchate is not ecumenical.”

“Let us home and pray that in our country as well as in other countries this mindset changes so that human rights and citizens’ property rights are respected,” Bartholomew said. “We entrust ourselves only to Divine Providence and not to the temporal power of men. It is this Divine Providence that has preserved our Ecumenical Patriarchate for eleven centuries before the fall of Constantinople and six centuries after.”

After thanking Turkish authorities for the steps they have taken, the patriarch said that “sadly in the last two years Christian minorities have been subjected to various forms of aggression, including death, against both the clergy and the laity like the murder of Catholic priest Fr Andrea Santoro in Trabzon, Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink and three Protestant men in Malatya. And the Armenian Patriarchate continues to receive threats. I repeat once again: Our country must become reconciled with its history. People must understand that minorities are not a separate body outside the history of this country and this land. We have no political claims, nor are we a threat to the state. Instead we are a reference of civilisation and stability.”

The Ecumenical Patriarch finally remembered the 35th anniversary of the death of Patriarch Athenagoras, who “opened new paths and horizons, starting the dialogue with the Catholic Church. His 1963 meeting with Pope Paul VI in Jerusalem undid the schism after centuries. We continue on his path towards dialogue for the unity of all. We are deacons of the Word of God and do not have personal ambitions. (NT)

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