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Ecumenical Patriarchate to appeal confiscation of church properties

The Holy Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has declared intentions to appeal to Turkish courts, and should that fail, to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg regarding the 23 Orthodox foundations and communities that have been confiscated by the Turkish government’s religious foundation directorate.

Following the Divine Liturgy at St. George Church, atop the Byzantium walls of Edirne, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew addressed the congregation, and as reported by AsiaNews, said:

“We have and you have come here to celebrate this religious ceremony in a parish that is facing many difficulties. Unfortunately it is not alone. The problem is that this parish and its community, as is the case with many others of the Church of Constantinople, have been abusively declared occupied by the Directorate of Religious Foundations. This means that we cannot claim any rights to the management of the properties of this community, nor proceed with the election of its administrative board. As a result of this we have no right to manage that which was left to us by our forefathers. The only thing we are allowed to carry out in these places are religious functions. Unfortunately this is fate of this parish and many other parishes of the Church of Constantinople.

“In the court yard of this parish the building which housed the community’s school still exists. It unfortunately has been transformed into a gaming hall and its management has been ceded by the authorities to a private individual, who in turn compensated these authorities with rent.

“In an attempt to put an end to these injustices which we are being subjected to, the Synod has reached a decision; to appeal firstly to the State Judiciary of Turkey, then, if all else should fail to the European Court in Strasbourg, following the example of the orphanage on Prince Buyukada Island, in the hopes that in this case too, justice will be done.

“We do not want special treatment, but neither can we allow our rights to be trampled on or our identity and the cultural heritage entrusted us by our forefathers be erased.”

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