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17447Greek Orthodox leaders seek resolution from legislators on Turkey

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    Jan 29, 2013

      Greek Orthodox leaders seek resolution from legislators on Turkey
      Jan 28th, 2013

      Greek Orthodox church leaders are hoping state legislators will pass a
      resolution calling on Turkish officials to "loosen up on their secular
      stronghold" and allow for more religious freedom abroad.

      State Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, and Mayor Don Gerard on Sunday
      joined Bishop Demetrios of Mokissos, chancellor of the Greek Orthodox
      Metropolis of Chicago, at Three Hierarchs Greek Orthodox Church in
      Champaign, where they announced their second attempt at passing a state
      resolution asking the Turkish government to remove governmental barriers
      hindering religious freedom in that country.

      The "mother church" of Orthodox Christians and the Patriarch of
      Constantinople, the spiritual leader of the church, are stationed in
      Istanbul. The setup is not unlike the Vatican and the Pope of the Roman
      Catholic Church in Italy.

      The Turkish government imposes restrictions on the church: It requires
      that the Ecumenical Patriarch be a Turkish citizen, and it does not
      recognize the Patriarch's worldwide constituency.

      The government also does not give the church any legal identity, which
      means the entity cannot own any property --- even its own churches. The
      church is unable to train new clergy in Turkey, and its theological
      school was forcibly closed by the Turkish government.

      Spokesman John Ackerman explained it this way: Imagine if the Italian
      government announced it was seizing all the property of the Roman
      Catholic Church and that, from now on, the Roman Catholic Pope would be
      required to be Italian.

      "The world would be in an uproar," Ackerman said. "That would not be
      permissible, and that's what our faith has been living with."

      Bishop Demetrios, the head of the Metropolis of Chicago that has 34
      parishes in Illinois and another 24 across Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa,
      Indiana and Missouri, said the Turkish government has taken some steps
      to "loosen up" on its regulations. About 360 acres of seized land and an
      orphanage were recently returned to the church, but there is still much
      more work to do.

      "We have been making positive steps, and the government has been
      receptive," the bishop said.

      The bishop's visit to Three Hierarchs Greek Orthodox Church in Champaign
      on Sunday is only about a once-per-year event, and it preceded
      Wednesday's feast of the Three Hierarchs, the church's namesake. After
      visiting the church, he was scheduled to visit students at the Orthodox
      Christian Fellowship on the University of Illinois campus.

      Across the country, 42 states have already passed the resolution that
      Frerichs said he plans to support. A 2007 resolution in Illinois passed
      the House of Representatives but was never called for a vote in the senate.

      Ackerman attributed the stall to confusion among state senators as to
      what the resolution was actually about, and he hopes a better awareness
      campaign will help supporters avoid that problem a second time.

      Frerichs said he has little doubt that the resolution calling on the
      Turkish government to remove barriers to religious freedom should pass
      this time.

      "If we claim to support religious freedom, then we should support it
      abroad as well," Frerichs said.

      Source: The News-Gazette

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