1000 ultra nationalist Turks protest Ecumenical Patriarchate
- This is the Turkish news opinion of events:
Turkish Nationalists Protest Interference Of Orthodox Patriarchate
ISTANBUL, Sept 5 (AFP) - Around 1,000 ultra-nationalist Turks
protested outside the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox Church here
Sunday, Turkish media reported, accusing it of interfering in Turkey's
The protesters, called out by the youth movement of the Party for
Nationalist Action (MHP), hurled stones at riot police before being
subdued by tear gas and truncheons.
Pictures showed the protesters burning an effigy of Ecumenical
Patriarch Bartholomew I, head of the northern Greek Orthodox church,
and hanging him from a tree.
The Istanbul patriarchate, the headquarters of the Greek Orthodox
Church is the last vestige of the medieval Byzantine empire which
modern Greeks still revere.
The patriarchate has been pressuring Ankara for years to reopen a
century-old seminary on the island of Heybeliada (Halki in Greek) off
Istanbul, which was closed in 1971 during Greek-Turk tensions over Cyprus.
The European Union, critical of Turkey for failing to ensure the
religious freedoms of non-Muslim minorities, is closely watching how
Ankara is handling the requests for the reopening of the school.
The United States also supports the school's reopening.
A spokesman for the protesters said that Turkey had given in to the
European Union and the United States over the patriarchate.
The Turkish government, keen to increase its prospects for joining the
EU, has made it clear in the last year that it is considering
reopening the religious school.
Northern Greece's churches are run from Istanbul because the region
was part of the Ottoman Empire before it fell to Greece in 1912.