CEH leaders today released the document below that they are using in their behind-the-scenes efforts with key U.S. policy-makers to stop the elimination of the Ecumenical Patriarchate through the leverage provided by Turkey’s accession to the European Union (EU).
On December 17, 2004 the EU will present Turkey with a document that specifies those practices, regarding religious and human rights, Turkey must change if they are to begin the process of acceding to the EU. CEH is working to secure key U.S. policy-makers to encourage the EU to include in this document language calling on Turkey to allow the Ecumenical Patriarchate appropriate recognition, ecclesiastic succession, training of clergy, property rights and other human rights.
ACTION NEEDED TO PRESERVE THE ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE
— Nearly 2,000-year-old center for 250,000 Orthodox Christians facing elimination —
Recent developments have put into jeopardy the seat of the spiritual leader of millions of Americans and 250 million Orthodox Christians around the world – the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, Turkey. Essentially, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is to Orthodox Christians what the Vatican is to Catholics. Some well-known Orthodox Christians include: San Diego Chargers owner Alex Spanos; former CIA Director George Tenet; U.S. Senators Paul Sarbanes and Olympia Snowe; USAID Director Andrew Natsios; and US Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte.
The EU holds the key to safeguarding the Ecumenical Patriarchate. On December 17, 2004 the EU will present Turkey with a document that specifies those practices, regarding religious and human rights, Turkey must change if they are to begin the process of acceding to the EU. The US State Department is encouraging the EU to include in this document language calling on Turkey to allow the Ecumenical Patriarchate appropriate recognition, ecclesiastic succession, training of clergy, property rights and other human rights.
Without such action this living pillar of history for all Christians is jeopardized. The Apostle Andrew (the brother of Peter) established the Ecumenical Patriarchate in what is today Turkey in 37 AD and the current Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, is the 269th direct successor of the Apostle Andrew.
American security interests would also be jeopardized by the loss of this Patriarchal See (location of a religious institution). The Russian Patriarch, who was appointed by the Russian government and holds the largest Orthodox See, would lay claim to the leadership and could influence this worldwide network – the second largest church in the largest religion in the world. The current Ecumenical Patriarch, Bartholomew, on the other hand, shares pro-western values and consistently strengthens US security interests. For example, he led an EU gathering of religious leaders that produced the first Muslim condemnation of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack as anti-religious. He serves as a natural bridge between civilizations, which is evidenced in his meetings with the top leaders in Muslim countries like Libya and Iran, as well as with US Presidents. Like George Washington, Winston Churchill and Mother Teresa, he received the Congressional Gold Medal for his efforts to promote peace and religious tolerance and his extraordinary leadership on behalf of the environment.
Some recent actions by Turkey against the religious rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate follow. If they continue the Ecumenical Patriarchate will be eliminated.
• In just the last two years, the Turkish government has confiscated 75% of the 1,747 Ecumenical Patriarchal properties. Turkey suddenly put a 42% tax retroactive to 1999 on the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s Balukli Hospital.
• In recent days, the government of Turkey reversed its commitment to President George Bush. By doing so they have kept the Ecumenical Patriarch in Turkey’s “catch 22” – requiring that the Ecumenical Patriarch must be a Turkish citizen while keeping Turkish citizens from qualifying. This assures the extinction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Reversing their commitment to reopen the theological school at Halki guarantees that none of the 2,000 Turkish citizens who are Orthodox (reduced from hundreds-of-thousands by official discrimination) can become Ecumenical Patriarch.
• Further, the Prime Minister of Turkey recently reversed his commitment to recognize the Ecumenical Patriarch as the head of the world’s Orthodox Christians, instead of just local Orthodox. As well, he insists on maintaining the authority to veto the Orthodox Holy Synod’s selection of Ecumenical Patriarchs.