Patriarchate’s Struggles in Turkey

September 20, 2009

Though recent developments shine a glimmer of hope toward religious freedom in Turkey, there is still a long way to go, scholars and legal experts said on Sept. 16 at the Fordham School of Law.

The conference “Religious Freedom in Turkey: The Case of the Ecumenical Patriarch” featured discussion about efforts to end the sometimes daily persecution of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Consider:

  • Almost all of its property has been seized by successive Turkish governments.
  • Its schools have been closed and its prelates taunted by extremists who demonstrate almost daily outside the Patriarchate, calling for its ouster from Turkey.
  • His All Holiness Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome is denied his title of “Ecumenical” Patriarch.

Established in the fourth century, the Ecumenical Patriarch once possessed holdings as vast as those of the Vatican. Today, the Turkish government will not acknowledge the Patriarch’s title over a dispute about the translation of “ecumenical” and whether or not it means the patriarch has any jurisdiction over the city of Istanbul, said panelist George Demacopoulos, Ph.D., associate professor of theology and co-founding director of the Orthodox Christian Studies program.

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