Religious FreedomA religious tragedy of historic magnitude is taking place in Turkey, but it receives little media attention. The world's oldest Christian church is under threat of extinction. Learn more about the efforts to protect religious freedom in Turkey.
In direct violation of international laws on religious freedom, Turkey refuses to grant legal personality to the Ecumenical Patriarchate or recognize the ecumenical role of the Patriarch and the Patriarchate. To the contrary, the Turkish government has taken extraordinary steps to repress the Patriarchate. It has closed the Halki School of Theology, which generates candidates for the position of Ecumenical Patriarch, it has seized property belonging to the Patriarchate, and it has required that clerics have Turkish citizenship before they are able to succeed the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Turkey, which occupies a place in the Western alliance and aspires to European Union membership, must immediately demonstrate a commitment to religious freedom by: (1) Turkey’s cessation of all government interference in the election of the Ecumenical Patriarch; (2) Turkey’s recognition of the legal status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as well as the Roman Catholic and Protestant Churches and the Jewish religious minority in Turkey; (3) Turkey’s recognition of the canonical, historical and ecclesiastical title “ecumenical” with regards to the Patriarchate; (4) Turkey allowing the training of Orthodox Christian clergy and re-opening the Halki School of Theology; and (5) Turkey restoring the property rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its institutions, including the restitution for and/or return of thousands of confiscated properties.
Religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate is one of the most highly-supported issues in Congress. Eighty-nine Senators and 291 Members have signed on to a letter to the president expressing concern for the treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the treatment of the Greek Orthodox Church in Turkey.
In 2009, CBS News profiled the persecution of the Ecumenical Patriarch. Watch the video below:Back to top