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Court rejects Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch status June 26, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Politics, Religion & Faith.

A Turkish court on Tuesday ruled that the Istanbul-based Ecumenical Orthodox Patriarch is not the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, and is only the head of the local Greek Orthodox community. The court’s decision, however, has no impact on his status outside Turkey. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I is the internationally recognized spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox.

A court Tuesday backed Turkey’s long-held position that the Constantinopole, today’s Istanbul, based Ecumenical 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.”

Among Orthodox Christians, Bartholomew’s position holds great historical weight. The Ecumenical 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 Ecumenical 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.”

This is the Turkey which respects civil and religious rights! This is the Turkey that is eager to join the European Union! This is the Turkey that discriminates the whole world!

This is the Turkey that still occupies one third of the land of a sovereign country, a country member of the European Union, which is none other than the Republic of Cyprus. This is the Turkey that has invaded Cyprus in July 1974 and today is military controlling and occupying the northern area of the Republic of Cyprus!

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