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The martyrdom and agony of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey

Reader comment on item: Turkey in Cyprus vs. Israel in Gaza
in response to reader comment: History and the turks and Patriarch Bartholomew on CBS's 60 minutes

Submitted by Ianus (Poland), Aug 12, 2010 at 19:31

Hi, dhimmi no more !

You ask once more questions of principal importance. Indeed, the predicament of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the plight of the tiny Greek community in Constantinople is the best indicator of what "modern" Turkey really stands for and what aims it is pursuing. 400 years of Ottoman obscurantism and tyranny couldn't accomplish what a few decades of the "enlightened", "Western-oriented" , "secular" Ataturkish Republic have brought about , i.e. almost the total demise of Christianity and Hellenism in its cradle.

You write :

" ...in regard to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople he was interviewed on CBS's "60 Minutes" about one year ago and it seems that the usual suspects at the Turkish Embassy in Washington wrote to CBS protesting the interview and that what he said was "all lies" and he was even allowed to meet with the Prime Minster of Turkey to discuss the problems of the 4000 Christians still residing in occupied Constantinople ...

This past sunday there was a re-broadcast of the same episode and the patriarch was asked if his meeting with the PM led to any changes in the status of Christians and the answer was; No. Nothing not a thing and I'm sure the Turks will protest and life moves on"

Once upon a time I thought that persecutions of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greeks in Constantinople were restricted to some three or four major and loosely interconnected incidents and otherwise they were left undisturbed as the Treaty of Lausanne had enjoined. Yet how wrong and naive I was despite all my distrust and suspicions of everything which has to do with Turkey! The picture that emerges on closer examination is much more dismal and horrible than even I could imagine .

And it all started the moment Kemal's troops occupied the city and his ideals prevailed . It has continued without interruptions through his disciples until this day. Persecutions, blackmail, violence, intimidation, demands of "protection' money, violence , administrative chicaneries and many crooked laws have all been set in motion and have had as its aim to adversely affect every sphere of life of the Christian minority – economy, rituals, habits, names, schools, churches , jobs , relations with the outside words ... All was designed with a diabolica precision and cynical cunning to make life for the Greeks in Constantinople unbearable and so either to force them to leave voluntarily or to terrorize and expell them or to exterminate them. What is more , even the very recollection of Hellenism and Christianity from "modern" Turkey were to eliminated for ever.

These methodical, meticulous and diabolically ingenious persecutions are an integral part of the legacy of Ataturk. He initiated them and saw the hoped-for results. His Western admirers are blinded and/or fooled by his alleged "secularism" and "reforms" not to seeing - owing probably to their Turkish spiritual guides - all the abysm they occasioned in very critical areas. These unadvertised crimes against minorities and Christianity are as much part of the Kemalist legacy as Kemal's lies and inventions about history.

Now let me quote from and paraphrase a very interesting source composed by the former Greek inhabitants of Constantinople. It contains a small but remarkable chronicle of the most arresting facts of how the Turks persecuted and eliminated the few Greeks that had escaped the Kemalist genocide of Hellenism in Asia Minor between 1919-1922.

Upon reading the account the only analogy that came to my mind was that of the Jews exposed to the Nazi legal system of persecution and violence before the Wansee Conference .

So it is what the 'secularist' Turk did to bring nearer the final solution of the Greek problem in Turkey. First let's concentrate on his efforts to ruin and abolish the patriarchate.

To undermine and split the Ecumenical Patriarchate Kemal had founded in 1921 the fictitious 'Turkish Orthodox Church' – a church without believers but with a "patriarch" , a body consisting only of its head that was to serve the Turkish interest and was supported by Kemal all along ! He appointed a renegade , Father Eftim, who later changed his name into Zeki Erenerol , as its spiritual leader. With help of his master and warrior of Allah (Ghazi) the spiritual leader of the non-existing Turkish Orthodox believers tried to evict the legal patriarch in 1923. This attempt miscarried . So both called a Turkish ecclesiastical congress, which elected Father Eftim a parallel and virtual Patriarch in 1924. This ghost "Turkish church" by Kemal's grace still exists and still consists only of its head without members !

As the coup de force in the patriarchate failed, Kemal issued Decree No 1092 on 06.12.1923 which downgraded the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople to a simple Turkish institution and determined that the Patriarch from now on would be elected only by clergymen who had Turkish nationality and were already serving in Turkey.

This was a very cynical move with fatal consequences for the patriarchate. As the Greek community decreased it became increasingly difficult to find people meeting the requirements of this "law". It is probable that the Turks will abolish the patriarchate simply referring to this "law". Waht is more this "law" gave the the Turkish government the right to arbitrarily influence and veto any candidate for the position of Ecumenical Patriarch and made the latter dependent upon the whims of the Turkish state.

In the meantime the Kemalist bullying and perfidy continued . "On January 30, 1925, upon the conclusion of the mass for the celebration of the holiday of the three Hierarchs , the Turkish police invaded the premises of the Patriarchate, arrested Ecumenical Patriarch Constantinos VI and after giving him his passport led him to the railway station of Sirketzi and deported him from Turkey. The Turks declared "he was not a Turkish citizen" and so his being a patriarch violated the "law"!

On June 14, 1926, Kemal's Government, in the framework of its strategy of even farther undermining and lowering the status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, initiated criminal proceedings against the Ecumenical Patriarch Basil III and all the Holy Synod. Why ? Because the high ecclesiastical dignitaries had convened a meeting at the Halki Seminary and not in Phanar (Fener), the administrative seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate ! They broke another Turkish "law" ! In the same period , the Turkish Government decreed to ban the planned organization of a Panorthodox Convention by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Every trip by the patriarch and his entourage was to be strictly controlled and pried into for un-Turkish activities.

The introduction of the Civil Code in Turkey, in October 1926, gave Kemal opportunity to cynically indtroduce a clause whereby religious minority institutions were deprived the ability to acquire new real estate, either by property transaction or by donation or inheritance.What is more, the Ecumenical Patriarchate was denied any "legal identity or bona fide legal personality in Turkey! This includes non-recognition of its ownership rights and the non-issuance of residence and work permits for "foreign" (i.e. - non-Turkish) priests who are essential to the continuity and functioning of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Turkish authorities do not allow the Ecumenical Patriarchate to own any property – not even its churches! The Patriarchal house itself is not recognized as the Patriarchate's property and even the Girls and Boys Orphanage Foundation on the Island of Buyukada (Prinkipos) for which the Patriarchate has held a deed since 1902 is not legally recognized by the Turkish government."

Based on this Kemalist legislation the Turkish Government has over time confiscated thousands of properties from the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including monasteries, church buildings, an orphanage, private homes, apartment buildings, schools and land.

Yet , as these measures didn't seem to many powerful Turks to work quickly enough , other "methods" were adopted to accelerate the demise of the insitution that has been a thorn in the eye of the "modern" Turks and that keeps painfully reminding them of their own shameful past.

On September 21, 1941 'unknown' arsonists threw on the wooden roof of the Ecumenical Patriarchate rags which they had doused in gasoline and put on fire. The Patriarchate Building burnt down completely. The fire consumed invaluable archives, records, paintings of Patriarchs and relics. In 1962 an application for the reconstruction of the building of the Patriarchate's see, after the damages it had suffered from the fire in 1941, was rejected. Similar applications for the maintenance of other buildings belonging to the Greek minority, such as the Prinkipos Orphanage (Buyuk Ada), the Metropolis at Derkon and the Tatavla (Kurtulus) School were also rejected. In the same year the plot of the church of Haghios Georgios in Therapia (Tarabya) was arbitrarily occupied for the purposes of developing a big tourist complex, without any attention paid to the protests of the Christians.

In 1977 the Turkish government imposed new arbitrary taxes on all 50 Greek churches and 28 parish schools, threatening them with financial ruin. Church carpets, linens and tableware were attached for tax default, even at the Patriarch's quarters. Buildings have deteriorated because the regime must approve all repairs costing more than $13 !!!

The Ecumenical Patriarchate has had great difficulty operating as an international Orthodox center. Turkey has shut down not only the Halki seminary but also the patriarchate's press. The Turks tightly control overseas travels of the clergy. In 1977 , officials even yanked the passport of Metropolitan Meliton, the see's chief envoy, just as he was leaving for talks at the Vatican.

On the night of the Turkish invasion in Cyprus, July 20the of 1974, the old Metropolitan Church of the island of Imbros which belongs to Turkey was looted and the cemetery of the village Kastro on the island was desecrated.

"In September 1974, the Turkish authorities turned into mosques the Byzantine monastery of

Akatalyptos Maria Diakonissa, which was built in 582, the monastery of Myreleo and the church of Haghia Theodora."

"On May 29, 1985, on a symbolic date, the Turkish authorities proceeded to an also symbolic act:

They tore down the whole front of the holy church of Haghios Georgios in Makrochori (Bakirkoy)."

On August 25, 1991, surprisingly well organized demonstrators, with not only the tolerance but also the open support of the Turkish authorities, besieged, under the sounds of epic songs of the janissaries, the premises of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which they blocked off for four days and nights. When they had the pleasure to leave, they kept trumpeting forth their intention to return and install a Turkish patriarch in the premises of the Patriarchate! Well, the ghost Turkish Orthodox Church invented by Kemal still exists, doesn't it ?

On June 12, 1993, 'unknown' as usual individuals launched an improvised Molotov bomb

onto the building of the newly built, with great trouble and expenses, Patriarchal House in Phanare

(Fener). The fire was extinguished by the clergymen, because the Fire Department was unable to

intervene !

In October 1993, a big rock was thrown inside the premises of

the Patriarchate from the neighboring hill and a regular army bomb was placed in the church of Panagia ton Ouranon, in an old quarter of Istanbul, which fortunately did not explode. Grenades and explosives used in the attacks against churches and the Patriarchate come usually from military depots of the Turkish Army and in some cases by their serial numbers their NATO origins could be ascertained. NATO has made a hude military arsenal of Turkey. It seem yet that it somehow forgot to tell the Turks not to use it against patriarchs and medieval churches.

In September 1994 the Turkish authorities, in a characteristic insult to the religious sentiment

of Christians, make available the old Byzantine church of Haghia Irini for the conduct of an international beauty contest!

On September 16 , 1996 two bombs went off almost simultaneously, one in the Byzantine church of Panagia in Mouchli (Fener) and the other in the now shut down building of the Ioakeimion School for Girls in Fener. Thirteen days later, on September 29, 1996 a grenade was catapulted onto the roof of the Patriarchal Church of Haghios Georgios, causing damages to the building.

On December 2, 1997 a new bomb attack against the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

resulted to the serious injury of deacon Nectarios from Rethymnon, Crete and to extensive damages in the Holy Church of Haghios Georgios.

On January 13, 1998 the same always 'unknown' individuals entered at two o'clock in the afternoon into the holy water spring of Haghios Therapon near Haghia Sofia,

murdered the 73-year old doorkeeper Haviaropoulos, threw his corpse into a well, grabbed valuable icons and set the place on fire in order to obliterate the traces.

On April 3, 1998, unknown attackers have desecrated 72 Greek Orthodox

graves in Istanbul. The attackers broke gravestones and opened 15 tombs, breaking crosses and covering the area with bones taken from one of the graves at a cemetery in the city's Kurtulus district.

In October 2004, the Ecumenical Patriarchate was bombed yet again by "unidentified" individuals. The Grey Wolves routinely demonstrate outside the Phanar and burn the Patriarch in effigy.

On June 1, 2006, the Ecumenical Patriarchate was informed that its ownership of several properties adjacent to the Monastery of Haghios Georghios Karype on the island of Burgazada (Antigoni) has passed to the Ottoman Foundation of Silahtar Abdulah Aga Vakfi. This foundation then transferred property rights to the Regional Directorate of Foundations, which demanded rent from the Ecumenical Patriarchate for the use of these properties !

According to the Report of the Helsinki Commission, the laws are set forth in

such a way that the confiscations technically may appear legal, but they are administered in an entirely arbitrary manner. For example, permits are not granted for building in need of repair until after they are declared to have been abandoned , no longer suitable for repair and taken over by the Authorities!

In 2007 a widespread network of Turkish retired officers was planning to murder the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. They possessed an arsenal of grenades, bombs and other weapons originating as usually from the Turkish Army depots. These retired officers were cooperating with the nationalist organization "Movement of Patriotic Forces" and other 4 organizations. The organization was founded on December, 27, 2006 and had 105 offices in 40 districts and 600.000 members! Quite a big army indeed !

But the greatest revelation among all those repetitive crimes, chicaneries, terror and sanctimonious "laws" came in June 2007 from when the Supreme Court of the Turkish Republic put in force the rule which strictly prohibits the use of the title "Ecumenical" referring to "Patriarch". The decision of the Supreme Court of Turkey from 26.06.2007 reads :

"As it can also be understood from the letter of Istanbul Governorate dated 6 December 1928 and numbered 1092, the persons who will participate and get elected in the religious and spiritual elections that will be held in the Patriarchate should be Turkish citizens

and be employed in Turkey at the time of elections. This is a clear indication

that the Patriarchate does not have the title "ecumenical."

"Turkish authorities ban the use of the term or title of "Ecumenical" for any religious activity whatsoever despite the fact that it has been used since the 6th century A.D. and recognized throughout the world. Turkey regards the Patriarchate as an institution whose head is considered the spiritual head of Orthodox Christians in Turkey alone rather than the leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide."

On September 2-3, 2009, again "unidentified" individuals desecrated 90 graves of the Greek Orthodox cemetery in Baloukli. They broke in pieces the tombstones that were bearing the cross, the names and dates of birth and death of the deceased. As one commentator observed "This comes at a time when Turkey runs television ads in the U.S. for tourism, including one depicting an icon of Christ."

During all those years of the martyrdom and sufferings of the Ecumenical patriarchate Kemalist "history" books and propaganda have been teaching the Turkish children and youth that the Greeks and Ecumenical Patriarchate had been an existential threat to Turkey. They are still the Fifth Column and a threat within Turkey. They had been conspiring with foreign powers hostile to Turkey like Russia and the West to bring about the downfall and partition of Turkey. At the seminars and lectures to army recruits, officers appointed by the General Staff deliver speeches in which the Ecumenical Patriarchate is openly attacked and considered as a hostile subversive institution seeking to damage and destroy Turkey as in the Ottoman days.

The atmosphere of witch-hunting , intolerance and nationalistic psychosis has always been powerful and ever present in Ataturk's paradise. It is shared and spred from very high places in the Turkish power hierarchy. Sometimes even finds its way to the media. Referring to formal religious freedom in Turkey Niyazi Güney the Justice Ministry statutes general manager said : "Missionary work is even more dangerous than terrorism and unfortunately is not considered a crime in Turkey."


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