Turkey moves to fetch Syriac Patriarchates

ISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
10/3/3012

Vercihan Ziflioğlu
vercihan.ziflioglu@hurriyet.com.tr

Turkey has rolled into action to bring the Syriac Orthodox and Catholic Patriarchates in Syria and Lebanon back into the country, according to a Syriac Catholic official who called for the resolution of more immediate and pressing problems first.

10/3/2012

“We are not against the Patriarchates’ return, but there has to be a valid reason. They ought to officially hand over our historical Patriarchate building back to us for the Patriarchates to return to Turkey,” the Turkish Syriac Catholic Deputy Patriarch Chorepiscopus Yusuf Sağ told the Hürriyet Daily News.

The Deputy Patriarch also said they had held meetings with Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu and European Union Minister Egemen Bağış about the matter, adding that former Turkish Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit had also allocated a building in Istanbul’s Gümüşsuyu district to Catholic Syriacs in the 1990s for a total of 99 years.

“They filed a lawsuit to retrieve the building from us. The case is still awaiting a decision at the European Court of Human Rights. Our community would like to open a church in Ataköy but cannot get a permit. Of course, I have no doubts about the government’s sincerity, but current problems ought to be solved as a priority,” said Chorespiscopus Sağ.

The historical Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate was exiled from Turkey in 1933. The Syriac Church bears the “Ecumenical” title, as with the Fener Greek Patriarchate, although it does not embody the entire Orthodox world as such but only Syriac Christians.

“I have yet to understand why the term ‘Ecumenical’ leads to so much distress. This would benefit Turkey and not harm her. Both the Fener Greek Patriarchate and the Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate are Ecumenical, whether you like it or not,” Chorespiscopus Sağ said.

Foreign Minister Davutoğlu maintains a close interest in Christians of Anatolian origin in the Middle East due to the Arab Spring, he added: “Whether it is politically motivated or sincere; I do not know. This does mean, however, that if a large wave of immigration was to follow, then Turkey would open her doors. Nevertheless, our principal expectation is for our immediate problems to be solved first,” he said.

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