Wednesday, 17 July 2019
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The Ecumenical Patriarchate

The Ecumenical Patriarchate is primus inter pares among the four Eastern Patriarchates of the original Pentarchy. The primacy of the Ecumenical Patriarch, who is the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians around the world, and the global scope of his religious mission have been defined by decisions of the Ecumenical Councils. As a religious matter par excellence, the status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was not regulated by the provisions of the 1923 Lausanne Treaty. Treaty minutes (see signed 10th January 1923 procès-verbal) recognised the Ecumenical religious mission of the Patriarchate indirectly. During the Lausanne negotiations, Turkey requested the Patriarchate quit Turkish territory, only to meet steadfast objection of Eleftherios Venizelos and of the other delegations.

At the time of the signing of the 1923 Lausanne Treaty, Turkey considered the Ecumenical Patriarchate as a potential threat to be removed. Deliberate actions to weaken the Ecumenical Patriarchate included expropriation of churches and other Patriarchal real estate acquired via donations. What is more, by decree the pool of candidates for the Patriarchal election was reduced to bishops who are Turkish nationals and officiate within Turkey. Turkey, also, attempted to undermine the Patriarch creating a state-controlled entity, the notorious “Turkish-Orthodox Patriarchate”. Despite affluent support from the Turkish authorities, it never acquired a congregation although it succeeded in taking over as vakif four churches from the historic İstanbul Galata Greek community. Present day events show that the said entity evolved to the detriment of the very Turkish society, since facts suggest its close ties with shadow, extremist nationalist organizations.

The persecution of the ethnic Greeks of Turkey, to a scale unprecedented and without justification for a state governed by the Rule of Law –which culminated into the 1955 “Septemvriana” events and the 1964 mass deportation of Greek citizens established in Istanbul–, coupled with the restrictive measures taken against the Patriarchate and the closure of the Heybeliada (Halki) Seminary in 1971, created serious problems for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Despite the dire times, its function as Mother Church of 300 million Christian Orthodox and its global, ecumenical reach via His All Holliness the Ecumenical Partiarch’s activity in the fields of environmental protection, intercultural rapprochement and interfaith dialogue did not fade.

Last Updated Friday, 09 November 2018