Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Patriarch Bartholomew: Time That Turkey Recognised Minority Rights

The ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew has once again requested Ankara to recognise minority rights: Turkey’s Christians should enjoy the same rights that their fellow Muslims enjoy, both in Turkey and Europe.

“We do not only want the freedom to celebrate our faith within our churches, but also the recognition of all civil rights, just as our fellow Muslims in Turkey. The same civil rights which our Muslim brothers have, and rightly so, in Europe”.

Taking advantage of the presence of members of the European parliamentarians from the green party – who were accompanied by the German Consul to the central Church of the Holy Trinity in Taksim square Istanbul for Pentecost celebrations – the Patriarch observed, “Is it not a cause for celebration to see our Muslim brothers actively participate in the civil life of European Countries, as is witnessed by the presence here today of the German MEP of Turkish origins Cem Oz Demir?”.

Referring then to Turkey’s demand that the ecumenical Patriarch be of Turkish birth – which greatly limits the election of the first among Orthodox Patriarchy – Bartholomew recalled his frequent appeals to the Ankara government, “appeals which never met with a positive or negative answer, that they allow the election of a non-national prelate the patriarchal seat to then confer Turkish citizenship immediately after his election, as is the case with the ancient Patriarchates of Alexandria and Antioch”.

“Our country – continues the Patriarch – is heading towards the June 22 general elections and we hope that the new government and parliament will carry through radical reforms for the good of our country”. Today, for the first time ever, Istanbul’s authorities, who are closet o the Islamic party of Prime Minister Erdogan, launched a campaign for festivities to mark Muhammad the Conqueror’s conquest of Constantinople.

Which clearly shows that we are in full swing of an election campaign that will do all that is necessary to win over every possible vote.

Regarding relations between Christians, there was no reaction from the Patriarch to the unexpected declarations made by Russian Orthodox bishop Ilarion of Vienna, who is protesting the make up of the Orthodox delegation to talks with the Catholic Church.

In an interview with Interfax he maintains that the Moscow Patriarchate is under represented while Constantinople has too many delegates. Ilarion also stated that the meeting in Ravenna which is expected to draw together Benedict XVI and Bartholomew I “is not an encounter between Catholics and Orthodox”, because Bartholomew does not represent all of the Orthodox Church.

Among the delegates, the importance of the presence of metropolitan, Kyrill Smolensky of Kalingrad, must be underscored, his pilgrimage to Cappadocia and above all his presence in Ravenna.

Speaking of the encounter he said such an event must be viewed with joy and strongly supported, because today’s world is more in need of meaningful and significant gestures such as these, rather than clever speeches.

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