|  
  |  
  |  
  |  
  |  
  |  
  |  
  |  
17 April 2014, Thursday
 
 
Today's Zaman
 
 
 
 

Turkey offers citizenship to Orthodox archbishops

PATRIARCH BARTHOLOMEW
21 July 2010, Wednesday /REUTERS
Turkey has offered citizenship to foreign archbishops to help the next election of the ecumenical patriarch, spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox faithful, officials said.

Prime Minister Tayyip Erdoğan has quietly led the gesture to the Orthodox, who face a shortage of candidates to succeed İstanbul-based Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, 70, and serve on the Holy Synod, which administers patriarchate affairs.

Turkish law requires the patriarch to be a citizen. But the Orthodox community in Turkey, an overwhelmingly Muslim country, has fallen to some 3,000 from 120,000 a half-century ago, drastically shrinking the pool of potential future patriarchs.

"The specific call Erdoğan made to give citizenship to those who will take up an official position at the patriarchate came in response to the problems they have," İbrahim Kalın, Erdoğan's chief foreign-policy adviser, said in an interview.

İstanbul, the Byzantine capital Constantinople until the 15th-century Ottoman conquest, remains the centre of Orthodox faith. As Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, a Turkish citizen of Greek heritage who is in good health, is spiritual leader for Christianity's second-largest group of churches.

There are 14 Greek Orthodox archbishops, including Bartholomew, who are Turkish citizens.

Seventeen metropolitans from countries including Austria, France, the United States and Greece have applied for passports, said Rev. Dositheos Anagnostopulous, the patriarchate spokesman.

Another six may still apply, and the See hopes the first archbishops will receive their papers by Christmas, he said.

The EU and United States have urged Turkey to end restrictions on religion for its minority citizens.

Kalın said the government's gesture should demonstrate Turkey's commitment to conform with norms on human rights in its bid to join the European Union.

"This is in line with Turkey's EU membership goals. But we believe that it's in our own interest to provide all rights and privileges to non-Muslim minorities who are Turkish citizens."

Survival

Diplomats said the offer of citizenship could provide a lifeline for the 2,000-year-old faith in its ancient homeland.

"At this point, it's just a matter of time before the institution dies out," said a European diplomat on condition of anonymity. "With this step, you have a much larger pool of clerics, making the Church's survival possible."

Erdoğan, himself a devout Muslim, personally proposed to Bartholomew during a meeting last year that foreign prelates apply for citizenship, both Kalın and Anagnostopulous said.

Still, Turkey does not recognise Bartholomew's ecumenical, or universal, title, arguing he only leads Turkey's Orthodox.

The EU wants Turkey to re-open a theological school on an island off İstanbul to show its commitment to democratic pluralism. The patriarchate trained clerics at the Halki seminary since the late Ottoman era until its closure in 1971 as political tensions flared with arch rival Greece over Cyprus.

Granting citizenship to bishops would resolve a legal anomaly in the Holy Synod. Members are required to be citizens, but Bartholomew appointed foreigners in 2004 for the first time since the Turkish Republic was formed in 1923.

"It's not legal or legitimate for these six foreign nationals to serve on the synod but there are not enough Turkish metropolitans," a Turkish official said, declining to be named.

Metropolitan Nikitas, a US-born member of the synod and director of the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute in Berkeley, Calif., applied for citizenship earlier this year.

"I chose to pursue this course of action, believing that it is one way I can assist the ecumenical patriarchate," Nikitas, 55, told Reuters. "I also feel that it may be a 'good will' expression on the Turkish side."

 
 
NATIONAL  Other Titles
Turkish ruling party wants Erdoğan presidential bid
Turkey to hold further talks with Twitter
PM avoids suing critics of corruption out of fear ‘truth may come out'
AK Party deputies pass MİT law article-by-article despite warnings
Ministerial bureaucrats purged after being profiled by MİT
Chief ombudsman laments low implementation of KDK recommendations
Purges in police force leading to higher crime rate
AK Party government punishing reassigned police officers
Commemorations for former President Özal, supporter of Turkish schools abroad
Gag order on case file in Yazıcıoğlu's death lifted
Legal complaint issued over Mazhar Bağlı’s hate speech
'Banning social media disaster for any government's global image'
Armenian Akdamar church restoration nears completion
Turkey's Gül says candidacy in presidential election not yet settled
Nana Zeyini dies at age of 120
92,000 die of cancer each year in Turkey
Four-year-old dies after being found with slit throat, wrist
Report: Naval command allegedly profiles personnel
Ruling AK Party to determine presidential candidate toward end of May
Probe launched into Afyonkarahisar explosion on suspicion of terrorism
American journalism school offers free online training in Turkish
Erdoğan threatens judges, prosecutors in party group speech
Opposition leaders say PM turning Turkey into intelligence state
Opposition CHP leader likens Erdoğan to Hitler, Mussolini
Nearly 90 police officials purged in southeast Turkey
...
Bloggers