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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Turkey Seeks to Rid Itself of Orthodox Christians

"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 our Thermopylae."

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.

Read it all here.

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