E.P. Concerned Over Turkish Court Ruling
The Patriarch of Constantinople has expressed his concern following a
recent verdict defining him as a "Turkish subject" spiritual guide
only to the Greek Orthodox minority in Turkey. Experts speak of a
"political" move which goes against the European programmes of the
government, a dangerous precedent which may influence the fate of the
Country's religious community.
Istanbul (AsiaNews) - The Patriarch of Constantinople has expressed
his "profound sorrow" at a sentence which June 26 contested the
ecumenical right of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, defining it as
a Turkish body responsible for the worship of the Greek orthodox
minority in the country. According to the Court, Bartholomew I cannot
bear the title "Ecumenical Patriarch" for the Orthodox world.
Religious affairs experts in Turkey describe it as a "political"
verdict, which raises "concerns" for the fate of religious minorities
in the country.
In a statement published yesterday the Patriarchate clarified that
"the primacy of the Patriarchate has been an honorary, spiritual and
historical orthodox title for over 17 centuries. In the Christian
Orthodox world the primacy establishes the hierarchy and expresses a
pure religious state, this has theological relevance".
The Court sentence reaffirms a long established approach to the
Patriarchate, the aim to downsize its role and its authority.
Diplomats note that this position is contradictory for a country which
has placed the European dimension as a milestone since its foundation.
However, what greatly worries these analysts is the context in which
the verdict came about. The court was called to examine the case of a
Turkish Orthodox priest of Bulgarian origins, who the Holy Synod had
removed from office, because of an "unfitting and inadequate
behaviour". In the sentencing - experts note - the Supreme Court came
down on the side of the Patriarchate, but at the same time used the
opportunity to pass down a political judgement on the juridical state
of the Patriarchate.
The "primacy" feared by authorities and public opinion
In order to justify its verdict the Court turned to the Lausanne
Treaty of 1923, which classified the Patriarchate of Constantinople as
a religious minority rather than "ecumenical". In Orthodoxy each
Church is autonomous for jurisdiction, but the Patriarch of
Constantinople has long covered a role "primus inter pares", enforced
by the historical value of the Church of the ancient eastern Christian
capital. The judges then clarified that, while it has the right to
remain on Turkish soil, the Patriarchate "is subject to Turkish law",
while Turkey cannot give "special status" to the minority who live
there. The Orthodox and Catholic communities continue to lack
juridical weight, the ministers of worship and bishops are still not
recognised, seminaries remain closed and the Patriarch must be by law
a Turkish citizen. The qualifying "ecumenical" linked to the
Patriarchate irritates some political groups in Turkey as well as some
sectors of public opinion who accuse the Fanar of wanting to build a
foreign enclave in the country, or create extra-territorial rights
similar to those enjoyed by Vatican City. Accusations which the
Patriarchate has repeatedly denied, asking instead that is basic
rights be recognised.
The Supreme Court sentencing is an alarm bell given the precedents.
In 1947 the same Court contested the right to property of minority
religious foundations, as was set out by a 1933 ruling. That ruling
legalized all of the properties bought to that date and allowed for
the acquisition of new properties. With the 1947 sentence religious
foundations were arbitrarily stripped of all property bought after