Friday, December 19, 2008
Turkey wants Christians to disappear
Turkey wants Christians to disappear
The Turkish foreign ministry and the state bureaucracy are trying to
diminish the importance of the patriarchate for all of Orthodoxy.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
By NAT da Polis
"We will never permit tricks or the vagaries of history to wipe us
out from this land": the ecumenical patriarch of Constantinople,
Bartholomew I, has commented on the report of the Turkish foreign
ministry, which denigrates the "minority" presence of the Greek
Orthodox community in Turkey, and refuses to recognize the
"ecumenical" character of the ancient patriarchate.
Presiding over the reopening of the church dedicated to Saints
Constantine and Helena in the Bozakoy neighborhood in Istanbul,
Bartholomew I highlighted for the faithful present that "we are not
finished, or hopeless." And recalling the great battle of Greek king
Leonides against Xerxes of Persia, he added: "we will never abandon
It seems that the Turkish foreign ministry is trying to make the
patriarchate "disappear," continuing to call Bartholomew I "the
patriarch of Fanar [editor's note: the neighborhood where the
patriarch resides]," refusing to use the title "ecumenical" and
acknowledging only that he has spiritual responsibility for the
domestic Greek minority, and not for the Orthodox communities
connected to Constantinople. It also seems almost a concession from
above to accept that Bartholomew I uses the title "ecumenical"
abroad. All of this has an impact on the juridical status of the
patriarchate, on its freedom to travel abroad, and to host foreign
delegations in Turkey.
This position has been reaffirmed in a report on the minorities in
Turkey, presented by the foreign ministry in parliament, the details
of which have been released recently. The report states that
according to the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), the patriarchate of Fanar
is allowed ecumenical status: its presence and residence in Turkey is
only in function of its service to the religious needs of the
Orthodox, Turkish citizens who because of the persecutions and
expulsions of the past have been reduced to a small minority of 3,000
souls, with an average age of 60.
But the report does not say that this interpretation is not accepted
by the international community, and is also contested by eminent
Turkish personalities like Professor Baskin Oran.
The report also excludes the possibility of reopening the theological
school of Chalki, in the name of state secularism, but does not say
that the Turkish state, secular (and Sunni), finances mosques and
schools for imams.
The curious thing is that the report on the minorities should be
produced by the foreign ministry. In this way, Turkish citizens are
in practice considered foreigners in their own country, under the
constant and vigilant observation of the Turkish bureaucracy.
The report also contains manipulations of a political nature. In
order to demonstrate to the world the magnanimity of the Turkish
state toward the Orthodox minority - especially in view of entry into
the European Union - the fact is cited that in Turkey, there are at
least 270 places of worship for the Orthodox. But it says nothing
about the fact that all of these were built before the foundation of
the Turkish republic, during the Ottoman Empire, which, although it
was a Muslim state, defended the minorities much more than the
current state does.
The report also talks about the "interest" that the United States
allegedly has in supporting the patriarchate of Constantinople. This
"interest" is due to the fact that the United States would like to
counterbalance the importance and influence of the Church of Moscow.
"It is clear," says an Orthodox source, "that the bureaucracy of
Ankara wants to diminish the importance of the patriarch after the
reconciliation between Moscow and Constantinople, in Kiev and during
the pan-Orthodox summit.
"Besides," continues the same source, "Turkey was highly disturbed by
the emphasis that the Russian media gave to the presence of
ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew at the funeral for Alexy II."
On that occasion, the head of the patriarchal see of Moscow, Kyril
Smolensky, praised the role of Constantinople. And even Prime
Minister Putin thanked Bartholomew I and expressed his desire to
visit the see of the ecumenical patriarchate.
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