Patriarchate eyes charter

Patriarchate eyes charter

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Patriarchate eyes charter

Fener Greek Patriarchate spokesman Dositheos Anagnostopoulos. Hürriyet photo

The Fener Greek Patriarchate demands legal guarantees in the new constitution for the protection of Halki Seminary, after a date was given for its expected reopening by the end of the year, a spokesman for the Patriarchate has said.

A draft of the new constitution draft will be completed by December and will pass through Parliament in the spring, Dositheos Anagnostopoulos, a Patriarchate spokesman, said. “If it is decided that the Halki seminary will be reopened, we will demand an article in the new constitution to prevent the threat of [the seminary’s] being closed again, so that similar problems won’t occur again,” Anagnostopoulos said. “We want a specified date for the reopening of the seminary by the end of the year. If there is no progress, we will initiate a legal process at the end of the year, as our Patriarch had said before. If we cannot solve the problem with the national laws in Turkey, we will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights [ECHR], although we don’t want to do that. We [may not] have another choice, though.”

Görmez, Clinton resented, CHP praised

The fact that the head of Turkey’s Directorate of Religious Affairs brought up the issue of the needs of the Turkish minority in Greece without using the word “reciprocity,” during his recent historic visit to the Fener Greek Patriarchate, also makes the Patriarchate uneasy, its spokesman said.

The visit was significant because it was the first time a head of the directorate had officially visited the Patriarchate in Istanbul. During the meeting on July 6, Directorate of Religious Affairs head Prof. Mehmet Görmez gave his full support to the issue of reopening Halki Seminary on Istanbul’s Heybeliada Island, while Patriarch Bartholomew said the Patriarchate is ready to open the school. Görmez said the fact that a religious community in Turkey currently needs to recruit and train their religious staff in another country was not appropriate. Basic rights and freedoms should be the object of the principle of “reciprocity,” Görmez said. “I do not find it suitable for one major country to tell another country ‘I will give as much rights to communities under my rule as you give to the Muslims in your country,’” Görmez said.

However, he also said he had received many faxed letters from Turks in Western Thrace and he and Patriarch Bartholeow talked about the building of a mosque in Athens, Greece. Görmez did not articulate the word “reciprocity” during the return visit he made to the Patriarchate, but issued some statements implying reciprocity, Anagnostopoulos said. The necessity of opening Halki Seminary, the problem of opening a mosque in Athens, and the conditions of Turks living in Western Thrace were emphasized, Anagnostopoulos said.

“We want to underline the point that we only demand the return of our rights that were taken from us 41 years ago,” Anagnostopoulos said, adding that the Turkish government has made demands as though the Patriarchate bore the title of “ecumenical,” even though the Turkish state does not accept the ecumenical title of the Patriarchate. “Our patriarch is offended by these words. If the Patriarch sends a fax to Athens, will they immediately open the mosque? No Patriarchate has the right to interfere with a country’s internal affairs. We cannot give orders to the Greek Church. Ecumenism is a moral status, but we have difficulties understanding this,” Anagnostopoulos said.

Speaking of U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s remark that “Halki seminary should be opened, but also a mosque should be opened in Athens,” Anagnostopoulos said “[that] was an unfortunate and unexpected statement. We want to assume that the information was transferred to the other side of the Atlantic incorrectly.” Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu’s support for the reopening of Halki seminary is quite important, Anagnostopoulos said. “In the period of the previous CHP leader, our Patriarch asked to meet with him in Ankara, and an appointment was given, but then the meeting was found to be unnecessary. So the CHP’s current attitude is notable,” Anagnostopoulos said.