Sunday, November 26, 2006

Turkish Stranglehold on the Patriarchate

from Newsweek George Weigel

The Turkish government closed the patriarchate's seminary, the Theological School of Halki, in 1971, and has refused, despite numerous requests, to reopen it.
Turkey will not grant the Ecumenical Patriarchate legal "personality," in defiance of the Lausanne Treaty of 1923, which defined the legal position of minorities in Turkey; this refusal to deal with the patriarchate as a legal "person" (as churches are regarded throughout the West) is, according to the patriarchate memo, "a major source of many other problems." For to deny that the patriarchate is a legal entity with certain rights, an entity that can work with the Turkish government within the framework of the law, means that all issues between the patriarchate and the state become political issues, subject to political pressures and counterpressures—especially problematic, since less than one tenth of 1 percent of the Turkish population is Orthodox.
The Turkish government blocks work permits for non-Turkish citizens who wish to work at the Ecumenical Patriarchate, such that the 10 Greek clergymen, one American layman and one British layman now working at the Phanar are doing so illegally, and must leave the country every three months to renew their tourist visas.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate is not permitted to own property; thus it owns none of the churches under its religious jurisdiction. Turkish authorities have also confiscated houses, apartment buildings, schools, monasteries and lands that were once owned by the Ecumenical Patriarchate; the state seized the patriarchate's 36 cemeteries, which are now the property of various legal subdivisions of the city of Istanbul; and, earlier this year, the state confiscated the boys' orphanage run by the patriarchate (which is the oldest wooden building in Europe and of great historical value).
The Turkish government also determines who may teach in the elementary schools that serve the Orthodox community, and enforces a six-year "approval" process to control the flow of books to Orthodox school libraries.
No Christian community in the West would tolerate such conditions, which involve violations of basic human rights


Michael Petek said...

I've recently been looking at some history. The schism of the Eastern Churches was finally healed at the Council of Florence (1438-1445).

All but one of the Eastern Bishops voted in favour, and the union was supported by Emperor John VIII Palaeologos, and by his successor Constantine IX, who perished in battle as Constantinople fell to the Turks in 1453.

The civil authorities of the Byzantine Empire and the common people rejected the Union.

After the Ottoman Turks conquered the Empire, the Sultan appointed Gennadios II as Ecumenical Patriarch, who definitively repudiated the Union.

So you see how a false vision of God, namely the assumption of Replacement Theology that He would ever cast aside His chosen people, introduces a spirit of schism into the body of the Christian faithful.

Islam is founded on Replacement Theology analogous to the adversus Iudaeos of the early Christians, and has imposed division on the Christian Church for all these centuries.

Henry said...

Interesting that all the sympathy available is used up on the Palestinians.

Opprobrium is reserved for the Israelis and right-wing oppressive regimes supported by the Americans.

All the other nasty oppressive regimes (China, Turkey, Sudan) get little or no opprobrium at all. When was the last demonstration in Trafalgar Square against any of these?

Sympathy and opprobrium are soooooooo... selective.

Michael said...

From an Inside the Vatican article available online here:
I turn to Elia. "If the patriarchs of Constantinople for 150 years were all students at this seminary, and the seminary has now been closed for 35, where will the next patriarch come from?"

"That is the question," Elia replies.

"Then it will be hard to find a successor for Patriarch Bartholomew, in time to come?"

"Very hard," he replies. "Because there is a law in Turkey that the head of the patriarchate must be a Turkish citizen, and there are only about 2,000 Orthodox who remain, and only a handful of men who might be qualified to be patriarch, perhaps five."

I am astonished. I had known the situation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was not easy, but had never realized until this moment how truly difficult its position is. I turn to Josh, expressing my surprise.

"It's true," he confirms. "The situation of the Patriarachate of Constantinople is dire. It has been official Turkish policy since the founding of modern Turkey in the 1920s to reduce the Greek Orthodox presence in the country. ..."