The last patriarch?
December 10th, 2010
12:45 PM ET

Turkey reaches out to Greek Christian minority

By, Ivan Watson and Yesim Comert, CNN

Within the last 15 days, several Greek Orthodox bishops have crossed oceans and continents to travel to a police station in Istanbul where they picked up an unexpected gift: Turkish passports.

Since September, the Turkish government has granted passports and Turkish citizenship to at least 17 senior foreign clerics from the Greek Orthodox Church.

"This is a real surprise," said Father Dositheos Anagnostopulos, a spokesman for the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, in an interview with CNN on Friday.

The Turkish passports may mark a turning point for the patriarchate, an ancient and beleaguered Christian institution based in Istanbul that some observers feared was on the verge of dying out.

Turkey is home to a dwindling community of fewer than 3,000 indigenous Greek Orthodox Christians.

Granting citizenship to foreign clerics dramatically expands the pool of eligible candidates to succeed the current ecumenical patriarch, 70-year old Bartholomew, after he steps down.

"It is a significant change because at last the patriarchate can continue with its own norms and laws," Anagnostopulos said.

The ecumenical patriarch's followers believe he is the 270th spiritual descendant of the Apostle Andrew.

For decades, the Turkish government has refused to recognize the patriarch's title, which means "first among equals." The ethnic Greek minority in Turkey was long an object of suspicion as a result of ongoing tensions throughout the 20th century between Turkey and neighboring Greece.

Discriminatory government policies prompted tens of thousands of ethnic Greeks to flee Turkey in successive waves of emigration starting in the 1950s.

Recently, however, the Turkish government has quietly taken steps to ease restrictions on the patriarchate.

Last week, Turkish authorities returned ownership of a century-old orphanage that had been seized from the patriarchate in 1997.

Earlier this year, lawyers from the patriarchate won a legal battle over ownership of the historic wooden building before the European Court of Human Rights.

The court fined the Turkish government 26,000 euros and ordered it to return the property.

Finally last August, Ankara allowed Bartholomew to hold religious ceremonies in a cliffside Byzantine-era monastery near the Black Sea for the first time since the 1920s.

"A more tolerant society is emerging in Turkey," said Egemen Bagis, Turkey's top negotiator in its troubled bid to join the European Union.

"The situation in Turkey might not be perfect. But it is definitely better. And it is improving day by day," said Bagis, at a religious freedoms conference at the European Parliament in Brussels last month.

Bagis, Turkey's minister for European Union affairs, gave the speech after receiving an award for "his efforts on behalf of religious minorities in Turkey" from an American Greek Orthodox community leader.

Despite these strides forward, Patriarch Bartholomew, who is believed some to be the spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians, has not dropped his demand that Ankara reopen the long-shuttered Halki

Turkey ordered the theological school, which trained generations of Greek Orthodox priests, closed in 1971.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Church and state • Greek Orthodox Church

soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. natural tinnitus treatment

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    April 24, 2012 at 9:41 pm |
  2. catholic, russian orthodox, online ordination, orthodox-catholic-archdiocese, archbishop-michael, http://www.orthodoxcatholicarchdiocese.com

    The Sovereign Order of O.C.A.N.A. And Holy Orthodox Catholic Archdiocese is a worldwide, lay, diplomatic religious order which seeks to glorify the Creator by promoting the sanctification of each member through his or her work with the sick and the poor and witness of the faith and to protect The Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

    April 2, 2012 at 5:16 am |
  3. Paul

    Sad nobody mention the Macedonian (Orthodox) community.
    One can not label a community "of a Greek origin" just because they spoke (speak) Greek!!

    December 31, 2010 at 12:21 am |
  4. Anzac

    I like it...

    December 30, 2010 at 4:45 pm |
  5. Istanbul Tours

    super πŸ™‚

    December 29, 2010 at 5:24 pm |
  6. John Yatczyshyn

    It's also time the Turkish government return Hagia Sophia to its original owners....The Orthodox Church. This ancient church building was taken from the Orthodox church in 1453 by the Ottoman Turks, goodwill and peace would go a long way in returning this structure to its rightful owners.

    Imagine the world uproar if the West Wall in Jerusalem was taken over by another religion and turned into a museum.

    December 15, 2010 at 2:52 pm |
  7. Agisilaus

    The Turks got smart.
    The last thing they needed as an impediment to joining the EU was a Greek Orthodox version of the Dalai Lama which is what would have happened. The Greek Orthodox would have appointed a Patriarch and he would have sat in Athens or Thessaloniki until the Turks relented. I just wish us Greeks were smart enough to think ahead like that... Hopefully this all can act as break through for religion & get us back to the time where we did indeed all coexist; google it, it did happen.

    December 13, 2010 at 8:40 am |
  8. Jill

    end times are nigh.

    The Greek Orthodox will be back in place with the glorius return of the Jewish people to Israel, their rightful land. Jesus will smite all unbelievers and the dead shall walk the earth. Amen in Jesus name.

    December 12, 2010 at 2:59 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Please see my post above to you and Eric...



      December 12, 2010 at 10:12 pm |
    • Taso


      I'm Greek Orthodox. First thing I'm going to do when we're 'back in place' is smack some sense into you. Hopefully you'll turn the other cheek. Let the hate out of your heart and live love. The responsibilities of Christianity and parenthood demand it.

      December 14, 2010 at 10:53 am |
  9. Apostle Eric vonAnderseck

    The face of religion is going through many changes, and will be ready to accept a unifying world Bishop known as the β€œBeast” which will emerge into his position during the tribulation which is spoken of in the book of Revelation. He will receive assistance from the 12 imam which will assume power from the abyss located in Iran. Watch as these things develop. http://apostlestoday.net/

    December 11, 2010 at 7:37 am |
    • Jill

      great post Eric.

      I have already stock piled food reserves and weapons for the upcoming rapture. All 8 of my children have been home schooled to avoid the foul whispers of the Beast and his army of slayers. The war is about to happen but I am so happy. Soon I will give my life for something greater, as the atheists and Muslims burn for eternity!


      December 12, 2010 at 3:04 pm |
    • Peace2All

      @Apostle Eric vonAnderseck

      Hi Eric...

      You Said: "The face of religion is going through many changes, and will be ready to accept a unifying world Bishop known as the β€œBeast” which will emerge into his position during the tribulation which is spoken of in the book of Revelation. He will receive assistance from the 12 imam which will assume power from the abyss located in Iran. "

      I understand that you are viewing events in our world through your beliefs and perceptual filters of The Bible, and obviously the book of Revelation, among others.

      My question to you is: Have you ever considered the 'possibility' that your beliefs about reality and the future and about what you say is going to be full-filled as prophecy from the Bible is...well, wrong...? It seems to me like some other fundamentalists, you are interpreting everything through this particular religious filter.

      What 'if'... just for the sake of discussion, ... you are wrong, and the things that are supposed to happen.. actually don't. What will you do then...? Re-think your beliefs...? Keep pushing forward and say..," well, it just hasn't happened yet, but it will...?

      You know, there are other reasons that ...even if... there may be occassional similarities and symmetry to your interpretations of the biblical end-times, ... what if there is (god-forbid) some kind of terrible calamity or world war, and... No Jesus arrives, as stated in the Bible. What would you do or think then...?

      I am sincerely interested in your thinking on this...!

      Thanks... πŸ™‚


      December 12, 2010 at 9:51 pm |
    • Peace2All


      You Said: "great post Eric. I have already stock piled food reserves and weapons for the upcoming rapture. All 8 of my children have been home schooled to avoid the foul whispers of the Beast and his army of slayers. The war is about to happen but I am so happy. Soon I will give my life for something greater, as the atheists and Muslims burn for eternity!" -Amen

      Jill- A lot of what I wrote to Eric, I would be interested in your comments too.

      As for your comment. You Said: "I have already stock piled food reserves and weapons for the upcoming (rapture)."

      Curious...why would you stock pile food reserves and weapons, if you thoroughly believe that the 'end times' or rapture is coming...? What would be the need for food or weapons, as you are going to be with Jesus...?

      You Said: "The war is about to happen but I am so happy. Soon I will give my life for something greater, as the atheists and Muslims burn for eternity!" -Amen

      How do you know, specifically that the 'war' is (about) to happen...? And, when exactly...(you can ball-park it if you like, as I realize...God, supposedly only knows the exact date.) A week from now, tomorrow, 6-months, 1 year... 2, 5 10, 20 50...yrs...?

      Also, are you 'excited' as in ...'let's hurry this 'end-times' rapture thing up...?

      You Said: "Soon I will give my life for something greater, as the atheists and Muslims burn for eternity!" -Amen

      So, maybe it's me, and I am interpreting your statement inaccurately, but.... you seem to be suggesting that you will actually be 'happy' as you are 'saved' and the 'atheists and Muslim's' (burn forever). 😯

      Seems to me like there would be some kind of extreme sorrow or sadness or empathy, should one of your fellow human beings end up 'burning forever.' Yes...? I mean, should you be right, who would even wish that kind of fate on their worst enemy...?

      I guess you don't seem to be acting or demonstrating a very 'Christian' like att-itude to say the least about this. Where is your compassion...?

      And why, 'atheists and Muslim's'... do you have a particular hatred for those 2 categories of humans...?

      And... what if... you are totally wrong about this whole thing...?(same questions I asked of -Eric above)...What are your thoughts on this...?


      December 12, 2010 at 10:11 pm |
  10. m

    There are few Greeks in Turkey because there was a genocide in the 1920's. Convert to Islam or be "relocated" to Syria...barefoot...in winter...with no food. This article fails to mention that.

    December 11, 2010 at 5:14 am |
  11. Mystified

    Reply to Enoch: Read the last comment posted on that report. That member of the Austrian Parliament might have a very dark side! You might not want him on your team.

    December 11, 2010 at 1:11 am |
  12. Enoch

    Here is a remarkable video clip from the Austrian Parliament where one Member of Parliament addresses the beheading of Catholic Archbishop Luigi Padovese 6 months ago and he speaks of religious persecution in general.


    December 11, 2010 at 12:22 am |
  13. koce

    half of Greece population have Turkish background.i think they all should be given Turkish passport and allowed them to go beck to turkey.and Greeks have to build mosques to Muslim in Athens as they brothers.

    December 10, 2010 at 11:55 pm |
    • Emir

      If only my brother. If only we could be friends instead.

      ~with love from the other side of the Aegean, your muslim Turkish brother.

      December 12, 2010 at 12:19 pm |
  14. LK


    Most of the non-religious/anti-religious nationalist Turks seem to have some very big problem with Greeks and Armenians. The military leadership seems quite anti-Armenian also.

    Basically, all the major political factions seem to have some pretty big problems with other nationalities. Remember that the military does *not* like the Kurds at all.

    The nationalist conflict was the main cause of the wars in the twentieth century and for the Armenian genocide.

    December 10, 2010 at 6:31 pm |
  15. JLGullett

    I, beleive the time is right, for the Turkish Gov't to reconize the Orthodox as not a threat to it's people, but as a friend & to respect Our Beleif's, in Our Faith, as Orthodox Christians,& that we may live in harmony& peace with the citizens of Turkey...God Save The Orthodox in Turkey !!!!!!!!!!!

    December 10, 2010 at 6:02 pm |
  16. Jason

    Shut everything down that has to do with religion, it is the reason why Greeks and Turks fought each other in the first place. Turks do a good job in keeping this medieval custom down, it should not gain ground in the 21st century.

    December 10, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
    • saila

      Turkey has been stridently secular since the 1920s but it has not stopped them from persecuting the Greeks and Armenians, so what does it have to do with religion?

      December 11, 2010 at 5:52 pm |
  17. Reality

    Time to put away childish things like religion:

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" will quickly converge these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired. Ditto for houses and classes of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues

    December 10, 2010 at 3:59 pm |
    • JLGullett

      PS, repect your views, but the response is I believe In One God The Father & you none, " umh, this is the athiest or communist thought?????

      December 10, 2010 at 6:07 pm |
  18. Joe from CT, not Lieberman

    It would be a great sorrow if the Seat of Eastern Orthodox Catholicism had to close due to no more adherents. Even though Istanbul is no longer Constantinople, and Constantinople is no longer the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, the position represents more than just an Eastern version of the Pope. In this position, you have the Office that for centuries bridged the chasm between East and West.
    Yes, the man could relocate to Athens, or any number of other locations, but for over 1900 years, this office has been the "First Among Equals" to the various Orthodox Churches in the world.

    December 10, 2010 at 2:53 pm |
    • Calus

      It wouldn't be any skin off my nose. They can all go to hell for being such ass-holes in the first place.

      December 10, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
  19. Meet The Turkeys

    These old guys need to find a hobby. They have already wasted enough of their lives on play-acting.

    December 10, 2010 at 2:36 pm |
    • John

      I'm so very sad for you.

      December 11, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
  20. Mert

    As a Turkish person with no Christian background, I accept that Christians were the most oppressed people in Turkey, even more than Kurds. Both anti-religion secularists and religious Muslims are responsible for this. I think we should apologize to Greeks, Armenians and compensate whatever harm we did to them. Although many people will call me a traitor in Turkey but this is the way I think.

    December 10, 2010 at 1:44 pm |
    • tbubb

      I hope more people feel the same way. Your honesty is great.

      December 10, 2010 at 2:18 pm |
    • JLGullett

      Mert,.....................you are a person of good thought & know what has been done..............Maybe a day will come & the persicuters will acknowledge their wrong doing & admit They are sorry & were wrong.............JLG

      December 10, 2010 at 6:12 pm |
    • Peace2All


      Thank you for your personal assesment of the situation.


      December 10, 2010 at 7:15 pm |
    • thesonofottomanempire

      This is just a great example that slaps right into those faces that say that the turks are supposed to apologize.F. you all

      December 13, 2010 at 2:49 am |
About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.