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Greek Orthodox Patriarchate wants seized churches back

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  • Bill Samsonoff
    http://www.todayszaman.com/tz-web/detaylar.do?load=detay&link=133463 Greek Orthodox Patriarchate wants seized churches back Based in what is now I.stanbul
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 6, 2008
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      Greek Orthodox Patriarchate wants seized churches back

      Based in what is now I.stanbul since A.D. 356,
      the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate has long
      been asking the Turkish government to return four
      churches confiscated by the self-declared
      "Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate" run by the Erenerol family.

      The recent investigations into the Ergenekon gang
      have suggested that there may be links between
      the deep state gang and this fake "patriarchate."

      "They came to I.stanbul from Kayseri and declared
      a so-called 'Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate.' They
      always tried to undermine the status of the
      Ecumenical Patriarchate. In 1924, they occupied
      our church -- the Panayia Kafatiani Church-- in
      Galata and beat-up our clergymen. Later, in 1926,
      they occupied another church, the Hristos Church.
      We have documents proving that these churches
      belong to us," said Bishop Meliton from the Greek
      Orthodox Patriarchate on Monday in a special interview with Today's Zaman.

      As it turns out, the "Turkish Orthodox
      Patriarchate" hasn't had a congregation for years
      but was created by the Turkish state together
      with a small number of Greek Orthodox members in
      the 1920s when parts of Anatolia were under Greek control.

      In an operation named "Ergenekon" a couple of
      weeks ago, several people with links to Turkey's
      "deep state" were arrested. Among them was Sevgi
      Erenerol, the "media and public relations officer
      of the independent patriarchate." She is the
      granddaughter of Father Eftim, founder of the so-called patriarchate.

      Father Eftim was a village priest from the
      Turkish-speaking Karamanl? Greek community of
      Cappadocia in Anatolia who supported the Turks during the War of Independence.

      "Eftim became the leader of the 'patriarchate' in
      Kayseri in 1922 under the name of the
      'Independent Patriarchate of the Turkish
      Orthodox,'" said Elçin Macar, the author of
      "I.stanbul Rum Patrikhanesi" (I.stanbul Greek
      Patriarchate, 2003) and a professor at the Y?ld?z
      Technical University's department of political
      science and international relations.

      Eftim and his family were exempted from the
      population exchange between Greece and Turkey,
      but his small congregation moved out of the
      country. Without any congregation, Eftim moved to
      I.stanbul in 1924, together with the
      "patriarchate," Macar explained. Eftim had some
      followers in Galata, an area with a large Greek population.

      "Eftim and his sons call themselves 'patriarchs.'
      Who elected them? When? Eftim's son Turgut
      succeeded his father and called himself Patriarch
      Eftim II. Then came Turgut's brother, and then
      they brought Pas,a [Sevgi Erenerol's brother]
      from the United States to assume the role of the
      'Patriarch.' They have all been excommunicated by
      the Orthodox Church," Bishop Meliton said.

      Bishop Meliton also said Selçuk Erenerol, the
      father of Sevgi Erenerol, occupied the Aya Nikola
      and Aya Yani churches, which originally belonged
      to the Greek minority, on Sept. 1, 1965. Then the
      property that belonged to these four churches was
      given to the foundation of this fake patriarchate.

      "It was a plan that had been organized back in
      1936. The so-called 'Turkish Orthodox
      Patriarchate' claimed in its 1936 declaration
      that the two churches, which were to be seized
      almost thirty years later, belong to it. I don't
      know how, but on Nov. 11, 1964, the deeds of the
      Aya Nikola and Aya Yani churches were registered
      to the church foundation that belongs to the
      so-called patriarchate," Bishop Meliton added.

      He said he visited these churches to see what has
      been going on and found laundry left out to dry
      in the courtyard of the Aya Nikola Church, where
      religious activities are no longer held: "Aya
      Yani was rented to the Syrian community and
      Panayia Kafatiani, the so-called center of the
      'Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate,' was linked to
      the Ergenekon gang, as we have learned from the
      press. Of course, our legitimate demand to
      guarantee the return of our Galata churches that
      we have inherited from our forefathers has been
      constant. The fact that this request coincided
      with the Ergenekon affair is coincidental, even
      though the involvement of Sevgi Erenerol
      demonstrates that our usurped churches have not
      been used for spiritual or religious matters."

      When Bishop Meliton visited the Panayia Kafatiani
      Church a few years ago, he noticed that the
      "patriarchate" didn't know how to conduct a
      religious ceremony. "They didn't even wear their
      gowns properly. Some people were lighting candles. That was it," he said.

      In response to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate's
      pleas for the return of these churches, the
      Turkish government finally gave back the Hristos
      Church in Galata in 1947 to the Orthodox
      Patriarchate, but because of a road enlargement
      in the area, the church was torn down and the
      compensation paid for its expropriation was given
      to the foundation of the Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate.

      "We don't interfere with anyone establishing
      whatever church. But it should be done with their
      own resources. They confiscated our property," Bishop Meliton said.

      'Selçuk Erenerol demanded recognition'

      Bishop Meliton said after Turgut Erenerol died
      his brother, Selçuk Erenerol, requested a meeting
      with members of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate.

      On Sept. 10, 1992 at the Greek Orthodox
      Patriarchate, three bishops received Erenerol,
      who said they would give back the three churches
      in Galata to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate if
      the Patriarchate recognized the name of the
      "Turkish Orthodox Church" and Erenerol's right to
      administer it; rescinded the excommunication of
      his father, Eftim; and Erenerol's rights to spend
      income from the 72 properties held by these three church foundations.

      "Our Patriarchate representatives made clear to
      him that these demands were not acceptable. It
      was unacceptable for the Patriarchate to
      recognize an institution that was established
      against the Orthodox Church's principles. Since
      each church needs income for its continuity and
      believers made donations for the future of these
      churches, we couldn't think of separating the income flows from the churches."

      Greek Orthodox Patriarchate had 90 properties

      In addition to property lost to the bogus
      patriarchate, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate has
      also had many churches taken away by the Turkish
      Foundations General Directorate. The Patriarchate
      once had 90 churches in I.stanbul and on the
      islands of Gökçeada (Imbros) and Bozcaada
      (Tenedos), the deeds of which belong to the
      foundation of each church. The Turkish
      Foundations General Directorate arbitrarily
      assumed the management of 24 of these
      foundations, together with their property,
      calling them "mazbut." "The Foundations General
      Directorate claims to have the right to rent or
      transfer these properties -- churches, schools,
      etc. -- to third parties," Bishop Meliton said,
      explaining the implications of the "mazbut" status.

      "Look what happened to the Greek church and
      school in Edirnekap?. They are in shambles. In
      addition, the Foundations General Directorate
      rented the school in the courtyard of the church
      to somebody who established a billiard saloon
      there," he said, showing pictures of the inside
      of the decaying church and the school building.

      He added that the Patriarchate had to go to the
      European Court of Human Rights for the first time
      to stand up for its ownership rights over the
      orphanage building on the island of Büyükada.

      "We don't want to go to the court again. We want
      to solve all our problems in a spirit of good
      faith and cooperation with the Turkish
      government. We are tax-paying voters. We serve in
      the Turkish army. We are loyal Turkish citizens.
      We don't have political ambitions at all. We have
      no ties with any sort of gangs. We don't want to
      be like the Vatican either. We just want to
      preserve our churches and our faith."

      The Turkish Parliament has been debating a bill
      on minority foundations that was previously
      vetoed by former President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on
      the grounds that "it may serve to strengthen
      minority foundations." State Minister Hayati
      Yaz?c? said last month that these concerns were
      not shared by Parliament's Justice Commission.

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