11/29/2010, 00.00
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Turkish government hands over Buyukada orphanage to Orthodox

The hand over of the deeds of ownership of the building, located on Princes’ Islands, to the Patriarch, could happen today. The European Court of Human Rights ruled in June 2010 that the orphanage was to be returned. Tomorrow the Patriarchate celebrates the feast of St. Andrew, attended by a Vatican delegation.

Istanbul (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Procedures to transfer ownership of the Buyukada orphanage to the Ecumenical Patriarchate are nearing completion according to Turkish sources, and delivery of documents could take place today on the eve of the feast of St. Andrew, a day of special solemnity for the Orthodox Church in Turkey. The celebrations at the Fanar will also be attended by a Holy See delegation, led by the neo-cardinal Kurt Koch, head of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity.

The Patriarchate’s legal advisor, Cem Sofuoglu, said the transfer of ownership of the orphanage would mark the first time a case of disputed ownership by minorities has been resolved without litigation. "We are seeing this for the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic. If there were not the political will, such a conclusion could not result because the case would go to the High Court of Appeals and getting [a decision] in favor of minorities is unfortunately not possible there".

After paying a fee of 150 Turkish Liras to the Land Registry Office of the Princes’ Islands on Monday, Sofuoğlu will go to the patriarchate, located in Istanbul’s Fanar district, and deliver the deed to Patriarch Bartholomew in a ceremony. The lawyer said both the Justice and Foreign Affairs Department played an important role in reaching this conclusion. He noted that Turkey has fulfilled its commitment to the European Court of Human Rights and completed the procedures set by the Court in three months. "We hope that from now on decisions similar to this will not be hindered, and that our courts follow this example". The European Court issued its ruling in June 2010. The orphanage building, one of the largest wooden buildings in the world, will be transformed into a centre for dialogue and peace.

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