Turkey’s Greek Orthodox Priests Become Pawns in Political Row

January 8, 2010

ISTANBUL — In the 1,700 years since it was founded on the shores of the Bosphorus, the Greek Orthodox patriarchate in Istanbul has survived many crises and challenges. Now, the leading institution of Greek Orthodox Christianity is becoming a pawn in a row between Turkey and Greece.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, has linked possible legal improvements for the patriarchate to Greece taking similar steps for the Turkish minority on Greek soil.

In an interview published this week in Kriter, a magazine specialising in Turkish-European relations, Mr Erdogan said his government continued to work for the reopening of a Greek Orthodox seminary near Istanbul that has been closed since the early 1970s. The issue is seen as a question of religious freedom by the European Union, which Turkey wants to join.

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