Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Yet Another Victory for Freedom in Turkey

Turkish court rules out international role for Orthodox Patriarch

Ankara, Jun. 27, 2007 ( - A court in Turkey has ruled that Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople does not have the right to the title "Ecumenical Patriarch." Patriarch Bartholomew has legal standing only as the head of his local Orthodox community in Turkey, the court ruled.

The Turkish court ruling will not affect the Patriarch's standing in the eyes of the world's Orthodox faithful, who generally regard the Patriarch of Constantinople as the "first among equals" in the world's Orthodox hierarchy. However the decision does bolster the efforts of Turkey's secular government to downplay the international importance of the Constantinople patriarchate.

The court ruled that Patriarch Bartholomew has jurisdiction only over the small Orthodox community in Istanbul. Because he does not head other religious communities, he should not be described as "ecumenical," the court argued.

The Turkish government currently requires that the Patriarchate of Constantinople must be a Turkish citizen. Patriarch Bartholomew had recently called for a change in that requirement, arguing that a wider pool of potential candidates should be eligible for the post. The court's ruling severely damages chances for that policy change.

The world's Orthodox churches are generally divided along national lines, with each Church governing its own affairs. The Patriarch of Constantinople is regarded not as having authority over the other Orthodox bodies, but as having primacy among Orthodox patriarchs. The Russian Orthodox Church in particular has been insistent that the Ecumenical Patriarch should not be seen as the Orthodox equivalent of the Pope, but as a peer of the other patriarchs.
While some of the argumentation made by the court is valid (given Orthodox ecclesiology on the equality of bishops), this is but yet another in the historic 'legal' oppression of the Church in secularist Turkey.

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