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Court Rejects Orthodox Patriarch Status

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  • Nina_Dimas_42
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp- dyn/content/article/2007/06/26/AR2007062600781_pf.html Court Rejects Orthodox Patriarch Status By SUZAN FRASER The Associated
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 6 6:52 PM
      http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
      dyn/content/article/2007/06/26/AR2007062600781_pf.html

      Court Rejects Orthodox Patriarch Status

      By SUZAN FRASER
      The Associated Press
      Tuesday, June 26, 2007; 11:46 AM


      ANKARA, Turkey -- A court Tuesday backed Turkey's long-held position
      that the Istanbul-based Orthodox Patriarch is only the head of the
      city's tiny Greek Orthodox community and not the spiritual leader of
      the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians.

      The decision has no influence on the status of Ecumenical Patriarch
      Bartholomew I outside Turkey, where he is regarded as the so-
      called "first among equals" of the Orthodox leaders. But it bolsters
      Turkey's strong resistance to acknowledge a wider role for
      Bartholomew and his ancient Christian enclave.

      Turkey has strongly objected to giving concessions to the
      patriarchate, fearing it could open the doors to similar claims by
      other minority groups including Kurdish rebels fighting for greater
      autonomy. Officials in mostly Muslim Turkey also have been suspicious
      of the patriarchate's close cultural and religious ties to longtime
      rival Greece.

      The court said Turkey could not give "special status" to any minority
      group. The ruling came as part of an appeals proceeding that upheld
      Bartholomew's acquittal in a dispute with a Bulgarian priest.

      "The Patriarchate, which was allowed to remain on Turkish soil, is
      subject to Turkish laws," the appeals court ruled. "There is no legal
      basis for the claims that the Patriarchate is ecumenical."

      The Patriarchate's spokesman could not immediately be reached for
      comment.

      Among Orthodox Christians, Bartholomew's position holds great
      historical weight. The patriarchate dates from the Byzantine Empire,
      which collapsed when Ottoman forces conquered Constantinople _ now
      Istanbul _ in 1453.

      But he holds no direct sway over the more than a dozen autonomous
      Orthodox churches in Europe and the Holy Land. Bartholomew's flock
      includes Istanbul's 3,000 remaining Greek Orthodox and several other
      congregations scattered around the globe, including the United States.

      Turkey maintains tight controls, including rules requiring that
      patriarchs must be Turkish citizens. This sharply limits the
      potential pool of candidates to one day succeed Bartholomew. The
      patriarchate _ backed by the Greece and other Orthodox nations _ also
      has pressed Turkey to allow the reopening of a seminary that was
      forced to close more than two decades ago.

      In Athens, the Greek Foreign Ministry said the court decision would
      not change the Christians' perception of the Patriarch.

      "The ecumenical dimension of the Patriarchate of Constantinople is
      based on international treaties, the sacred regulations of Orthodoxy,
      on history and Church tradition," ministry spokesman George
      Koumoutsakos said.

      "But, above all, recognition of the Ecumenical Patriarch as a
      spiritual leader is _ and has been for centuries _ deeply rooted in
      the conscience of hundreds of millions of Christians, Orthodox or
      not, worldwide."
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