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Bartholomew hopeful Orthodox Church will survive

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/news-220441-102-bartholomew-hopeful-orthodox-church-will-survive.html Aug 31, 2010 Bartholomew hopeful Orthodox Church will
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      Aug 31, 2010

      Bartholomew hopeful Orthodox Church will survive

      Istanbul-based Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew said he is hopeful
      the Orthodox Church will survive and that he will not be the last
      "Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople," despite the persistent
      problems surrounding his small and rapidly shrinking community.

      "We are not all in despair for the future of our church," Bartholomew
      said. "It is not easy, but it is not impossible," CNN reported in its
      special documentary aired on Friday. He dismissed rumors that his has
      no successors and said they trust in divine providence, and the
      guarantee given to them by the Lord himself, "that the church can survive."

      Ankara rejects Bartholomew's use of the title "ecumenical," or
      universal, arguing instead that the patriarch is merely the spiritual
      leader of Istanbul's dwindling Orthodox community.

      Nonetheless, Bartholomew's optimism is apparently not baseless since
      recently Turkish officials disclosed that Turkey has offered
      citizenship to foreign archbishops to help in the election of the
      next patriarch.

      Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has quietly led in the gesture to
      the Orthodox community, who face a shortage of candidates to succeed
      Bartholomew, who is 70 years old, and serve on the Holy Synod, which
      administers patriarchate affairs.

      Turkish law requires the patriarch to be a citizen. But the Orthodox
      community in Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim country, has fallen to
      some 3,000 from 120,000 a half-century ago, drastically shrinking the
      pool of potential future patriarchs.

      "The specific call Erdogan made to give citizenship to those who will
      take up an official position at the patriarchate came in response to
      the problems they have," Ibrahim Kaln, Erdogan's chief foreign-policy
      adviser, said last month in an interview with Reuters news agency.

      The European Union and the US have frequently criticized Turkey for
      not reopening a Greek Orthodox seminary closed in 1971 and failing to
      take measures to protect the patriarchate's property rights. The
      patriarch has long complained about the status of the seminary,
      located on an island near Istanbul and property issues. The
      government says it has been assessing a number of legal options to
      reopen the Halki Seminary -- which Bartholomew says is of vital
      importance for the survival of the Greek Orthodox clergy.

      At the time, Kaln said the government's gesture should demonstrate
      Turkey's commitment to conform to norms on human rights in its bid to
      join the EU. "This is in line with Turkey's EU membership goals. But
      we believe that it's in our own interest to provide all rights and
      privileges to non-Muslim minorities who are Turkish citizens," he said.

      There are 14 Greek Orthodox archbishops, including Bartholomew, who
      are Turkish citizens.

      Seventeen metropolitans from countries including Austria, France, the
      US and Greece have applied for passports, Rev. Dositheos
      Anagnostopoulos, the patriarchate spokesman, said last month. Another
      six may still apply, and the See hopes the first archbishops will
      receive their papers by Christmas, he said.

      Erdogan, himself a devout Muslim, personally proposed to Bartholomew
      during a meeting last year that foreign prelates apply for
      citizenship, both Kaln and Anagnostopoulos had stated. Diplomats have
      maintained the offer of citizenship could provide a lifeline for the
      2,000-year-old faith in its ancient homeland.

      "At this point, it's just a matter of time before the institution
      dies out," a European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity,
      told Reuters at the time. "With this step, you have a much larger
      pool of clerics, making the Church's survival possible."

      30 August 2010, Monday
      TODAY'S ZAMAN ISTANBUL
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