THE HELLENIC LINK, Inc.
Member Update- BULLETIN
Editorial Committee: Ahilleas Adamantiades, Evangelia Georgoulea, Maria-Eleftheria Giatrakou, Dean C. Lomis, Katherine Efthymiatou-Stabile
Contributing Editors: Dimitrios Oreopoulos, Andreas Adams, Evangelos Calamitsis
Acting Editor: Constantine Efthymiou
No. 92, November, 2010 - Supplement
A Timely Reminder and Announcements of Interest
On November 30, the Greek Orthodox Church will celebrate St. Andrew’s the Apostle Day. This celebration is of particular importance, since it is connected with the foundation of the Mother Church by the First – Called Apostle at its historical seat, Constantinople (Istanbul, Turkey). Since 1453, continuing to our days, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate and the Patriarchs have been subjected to severe threats against their spiritual function and even physical existence. It is, therefore, incumbent upon the Orthodox Christians everywhere to at last address this problem, by taking credible protective action to alleviate it, effectively restoring an environment of tolerance and respect towards the Greek Orthodox Institutions and the Faithful, long denied by the governments of Turkey.
In this Bulletin Supplement, we are pleased to focus attention on current efforts to achieve this goal. Two esteemed members of the Hellenic Link family present herewith their recent appeal before the international forum of OSCE on behalf of our captive Church in Turkey
The Archons at the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) Conference
By Achilles G. Adamantiades and Theofanis Economidis*
It is a widely-known and uncontested fact that the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople has been living, for a long time, under a harsh environment, great difficulties, harassment, persecution and even threats to his very life, as he has plainly, and perhaps, reluctantly, stated during his CBS interview “60 Minutes” with Bob Simon, broadcast on 20 December 2009. The Order of St. Andrew the Apostle (the Archons of the Patriarchate) is dedicated to the defense and protection of the rights and historical role of the Patriarchate of Constantinople and, in this role, was represented in this year’s Review conference of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) by the two authors of this article. We are reporting here the main points of one of our presentations, in the “Freedom of Thought, Conscience, Religion or Belief” session, and responses received at the Conference. The full text of the papers can be accessed on the OSCE web site (look for the second and third day of the conference and search under the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle).
During the conference, it became clear that a large number of countries, including Turkey but other countries as well, which have acceded to the basic principles of the OSCE Charter, continue to tolerate or instigate serious violations of these principles. Although OSCE is an organization that does not possess mechanisms for imposition of its rules or of penalties for breaches, the mere existence of a totally open forum in which no country has any control over participants, does bring about an erosion of entrenched undemocratic systems and eventually some, albeit slow, change for the better. This will be demonstrated further in this article, more specifically in the case of Turkey and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
In the first paper, we concentrated on the plight of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the continued and indefensible behavior of Turkish authorities toward it. We brought to the attention of the more than fifty delegations the seriousness of the situation as illustrated in the following quotes from our paper:
The “Ecumenical” title. An item of paramount importance to the standing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the world is its title as “Ecumenical,” which translates as pertaining to the entire “inhabited world.” We do not need to remind this erudite assembly that the Ecumenical Patriarchate was founded by the Apostle Andrew, the first-called Apostle of Jesus, in 37 A.D., in the town of Byzantium, later renamed Constantinople (the city of Constantine, who moved the capital of the Roman Empire to the east, officially, in the year 330 A.D.) which is the present-day Istanbul (officially renamed in 1930, by Kemal Atatürk). The Ecumenical Patriarchate has served, over the centuries, as the religious center for Orthodox Christians up to this day. Its position and prestige was formally elevated in the year 451 A. D., when the Fourth Ecumenical Council of the Christian Church, convened in Chalcedon of Asia Minor, established the five senior Sees of the Christian Church and their order of “preeminence in respect and love” and conferred upon the Bishop of Constantinople a rank second only to that of the Bishop of Rome. The term “Ecumenical Patriarchate” dates from the sixth century A.D. and reflects the stature in which the Bishop of Constantinople was held by the rest of Christendom. When Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, Sultan Mehmet the Conqueror officially recognized the Ecumenical Patriarch (at the time, Gennadius II Scholarios) as Ethnarch of the Orthodox peoples, while maintaining his position as “primus inter pares” (first among equals) among all the bishops of the Orthodox Churches. In succeeding centuries, the Ecumenical Patriarchate continued its existence in Istanbul, exercising its spiritual ministry over world-wide Orthodoxy.
The process for the election of a new Ecumenical Patriarch. Up until recently, a perennial concern has been the requirement placed by Turkish authorities on the process of electing a new patriarch. The requirement that the candidate to the patriarchal throne and his electors be Turkish citizens at the time of election, combined with the dwindling numbers of candidates who fulfill this requirement, has been a dire threat to the very existence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We have noted with satisfaction that, in recent rulings, electors of the world-wide Patriarchal Synod have been allowed to apply for Turkish citizenship and a large number (about 17) of them have done so. This recent ruling, once fully implemented, will add a considerable number of Orthodox prelates to the small pool of indigenous electors (comprising only 12 aging Bishops) for the election of a new Ecumenical Patriarch.
Restriction on Free Religious Education. Over the past few decades, the opening of the Theological School at Halki (Heybeliada) has become a thorny issue. Its closure, in 1971, seriously deprived the Ecumenical Patriarchate of its ability to educate its clergy and lay theologians and to be, by its ecumenical role, a center of Orthodox learning, research, and scholarship. In addition, The Ecumenical Patriarchate has severe visa restrictions placed by the Turkish government on students and priests who wish to visit it in order to study and serve there. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is not permitted to have its own printing facility, publish religious journals, treatises and books, a serious hindrance to its theological and pastoral function.
Over the years, there have been many voices, inside and outside Turkey, that have joined ours in petitioning the Turkish Government to allow the reopening of the Halki Seminary. These are too numerous to quote in this paper but we mention here briefly: (i) statements by the U.S. Government, including statement by President Obama in addressing the Turkish National Assembly in 2009; (ii) the European Union, and (iii) articles in the newspaper Hürriyet (especially , in a September 4, 2009 article).
It now appears that the Government of Mr. Tayyip Erdogan is looking seriously into the resolution of this problem. It was reported recently that Turkish Culture Minister, Ertogul Günay, stated that the government is searching for a formula to integrate the school into Turkey’s university system. Minister Günay said, speaking on Kanal 24 television, that “although we have not finalized a decision in the Cabinet, my personal impression is that we are going to open the seminary.” Speaking on NTV, Minister Günay again stated: “with the opening of the school, we strengthen ourselves and at the same time render a service to our citizens on the way toward the EU.”
Denial of Legal Personality and Property Confiscations. For many long years, a major impediment to the functioning of the Ecumenical Patriarchate as a normal institution in Turkish society is placed by the fact that it is not recognized by the Turkish Government as a legal entity, resulting in its deprivation of property rights. It is widely thought that this Turkish-government tactic has been a calculated long-term strategy of harassment, attrition and annihilation, with multiple deleterious effects upon its functioning and, indeed, its very existence. Massive confiscations of Ecumenical Patriarchate properties have been experienced over the years. The Greek Orthodox Church in Istanbul owned more than 8,000 properties in 1936. By 1999, the number had been reduced to about 2,000. Today, the number is less than 400, many of them being small churches or other buildings of varied commercial value. The list of confiscations is too long to detail in this paper.
We also recognized, in our talk, that the atmosphere on human rights in Turkey, especially as they apply to freedom of worship and religious minorities, is changing dramatically in our days. We said that, although our grievances are still standing, we are in a position to acknowledge a number or encouraging recent events and statements on the part of top Turkish officials that are favorable to our cause. We briefly enumerate below the most important ones:
It is gratifying to see that the number of voices in support of the points we made at the OSCE Conference is increasing, inside and outside of Turkey. We cite here but a few:
The reaction of the Turkish Representative. Mr. Tufan Höbek, legal advisor and Turkish delegate, made brief remarks in response to the Archons’ presentation. His tone, this year, was markedly different than last year’s and more pragmatic and conciliatory. He made the following points: (i) the title Ecumenical is not an issue; the Turkish Government does not feel obligated to use it but does not object to the use of the title by the Patriarch himself and others; (ii) he further stated that "the reopening of the School of Halki will take place but the Government is looking to find a way that is consistent with Turkish law and the Constitution; and (iii) regarding the restitution of property rights he said that, “…although the Government agrees that a return or fair compensation should be made, difficulties exist because of third-party involvement (i.e., how to deal with rights of persons who have purchased the confiscated properties).”
In the aftermath of the conference, we became aware of important developments that occurred in Turkey, favorably affecting the issues raised there. On November 3, 2010, it was published in the Kathimerini newspaper that “the Turkish Court of the Prinkipos Islands is expected to issue today its decision by which it will overturn its older decision that ceded the Patriarchate building to the General Directorate of the Turkish Vakoufs and by which it will order its registration in the name of the Phanar. This was also the decision, last June, of the European Court for Human Rights, accepting the claims of the Patriarchate and indirectly recognizing it as a Legal Personality, which Ankara has up to now denied.
As concerns the Orphanage of Prinkipos, the Ecumenical Patriarch has announced that it will be used as an International Center for the Protection of the Environment and the Promotion of Inter-faith and Inter-cultural Dialogue.
The second news item, appearing in the Kathimerini of October 14, 2010, was that Ankara has approved granting Turkish citizenship to Metropolitans of the Ecumenical Patriarchate from abroad under the framework of the promise given to Patriarch Bartholomew by the Turkish Prime Minister during their meeting in the island of Prinkipos in August 2009. This development creates the conditions for easing the problem of succession, which the Patriarchate may face in the future, owing to the shrinking numbers of the orthodox population in Turkey.
Conclusions. From our experience in the Conference, we have concluded that: (i) our presentations found a receptive audience and raised, once again, the awareness of the international community to the issues facing the Ecumenical Patriarchate; (ii) the points raised by other speakers offered a deeper understanding and awareness that other religious groups and faiths face similar problems; (iii) the Conference offered an excellent and, perhaps, unique opportunity for the Order of St. Andrew to make important and potentially useful contacts; and (iv) the changed tone in the presentations of this year, as compared with the harsher tone of previous years, was remarkable.
As Turkey continues its vigorous quest to join the European Union, full adherence to the OSCE Charter, including, above all, freedom of conscience and religion, will be a powerful asset and convincing argument, supporting Turkey’s aspirations. It will be strong proof that Turkey has the readiness, willingness, and ability to establish fair conditions for all its citizens but also leadership in adopting needed reforms and in becoming a paradigm for emulation in the entire Muslim world. The road upon which the present Government of Turkey has embarked is promising but they have still a long way to go. The Turkish Government needs to persist on it and bring the needed reforms to fruition.
* The authors are Members of the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle (the Archons of the Patriarchate);Dr. Adamantiades is also Executive Secretary and Dr. Economides a Member of the Advisory Archdiocesan Committee on Science and Technology (AACST); Dr. Adamantiades is on the Editorial Committee of the Hellenic Link Bulletin.
St. Nicholas at Ground Zero
The Bulletin warmly wishes to relay as widely as possible the following Announcement which came to our attention; however, as of the time of this writing we have not received confirmation of the planned Event. We recommend, therefore, to our readers to wait for such confirmation by other media and then respond to it positively.
An Announcement - Invitation to All Greek Orthodox Communicants
in the Greater New York area
An Afternoon of Prayer for St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church
Sunday, Dec. 5th, 2010
We've all heard the questions:
What's the latest news about St. Nicholas Church at Ground
Is it being rebuilt?
What is the Archdiocese doing?
How can we help?
On Sunday afternoon, December 5th, at 2:00 PM, on the eve of the Feast Day of St. Nicholas, our Archdiocese is planning to hold a vespers service at Ground Zero. Our intent is not simply to mark the Name Day of our church destroyed on 9/11, but more importantly to convey a powerful message to the Port Authority & the civil authorities.
It is critical to all of us as Greek Orthodox Christians, that we assemble as large a crowd as possible at the site.....if only a handful of people turn out, what message does that convey? Therefore, we need to let the Archdiocese know, as soon as possible, the level of support that we can expect from our community, in order to make this afternoon a reality.
We shall be joining our fellow parishes from across the area by traveling, as a group, for this historic and inspirational afternoon of prayer. We hope you will join us, with your entire families, so that we can make a strong statement in support of the St. Nicholas community and of the efforts of our Archdiocese.
If possible, please make arrangements through your Church to participate with your family and friends in this manifestation of Faith of the Greek Orthodox Community, which wishes to honor the victims of 9/11 and uphold its rights as a solid part of the New York City community.
November 12, 2010
On behalf of The Federation of Hellenic Medical Societies of North America, a 501c non-profit organization, representing approximately five thousand physicians throughout the United States and Canada, I would like to invite the participation of all Hellenic Link members in the 4th Annual Multidisciplinary Conference of the Global Hellenic Medical and Biosciences Network at Lenox Hill Hospital’s Einhorn Auditorium (76th Street between Park and Lexington Avenues in Manhattan) on December 3, 2010 beginning at 9:30 AM and ending at 6 PM.
Approximately 150 participants are expected to attend and 30 speakers to lecture on New Advances in Medicine and Community Health. Participants who register on the Website www.ghmbn.weebly.com may earn up to eight AMA Category 1 CME credits. A 3-hour community health fair will be offered at medical offices in Astoria, Queens on December 4, 2010.
The Federation of Hellenic Medical Societies of North America wishes to express its sincere appreciation for your support of this continuing medical educational (CME) program.
Spyros G.E. Mezitis, MD, PhD
Medicine/Endocrinology, Lenox Hill Hospital
President, Federation of Hellenic Medical Societies of North America, www.fedmed.weebly.com
Chairman, Global Hellenic Medical and Biosciences Network, www.ghmbn.weebly.com
Education Chair and Past-President, Hellenic Medical Society of New York, www.hmsny.org
Professionals and students in every discipline or field of endeavor, whether of Greek Descent or Philhellenes, are cordially invited to join the Hellenic Link, Inc. as members. It is quite easy and useful! Just contact us at any of the indicated addresses
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 Sümela Monastery sits at an altitude of approximately 1,200 meters. Founded in the year 386 A.D. during the reign of Emperor Theodosius I (375-395), legend has it that two priests undertook the founding of the monastery.