A Let Them Into the EU Alert: “Greek Orthodox Patriarchate wants seized churches back,” from Today’s Zaman (thanks to Tim):
Based in what is now İstanbul since A.D. 356, the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate has long been asking the Turkish government to return four churches confiscated by the self-declared “Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate” run by the Erenerol family.
The recent investigations into the Ergenekon gang have suggested that there may be links between the deep state gang and this fake “patriarchate.”
“They came to İstanbul from Kayseri and declared a so-called ‘Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate.’ They always tried to undermine the status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In 1924, they occupied our church — the Panayia Kafatiani Church– in Galata and beat-up our clergymen. Later, in 1926, they occupied another church, the Hristos Church. We have documents proving that these churches belong to us,” said Bishop Meliton from the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate on Monday in a special interview with Today’s Zaman.
As it turns out, the “Turkish Orthodox Patriarchate” hasn’t had a congregation for years but was created by the Turkish state together with a small number of Greek Orthodox members in the 1920s when parts of Anatolia were under Greek control.
In an operation named “Ergenekon” a couple of weeks ago, several people with links to Turkey’s “deep state” were arrested. Among them was Sevgi Erenerol, the “media and public relations officer of the independent patriarchate.” She is the granddaughter of Father Eftim, founder of the so-called patriarchate.
Father Eftim was a village priest from the Turkish-speaking Karamanlı Greek community of Cappadocia in Anatolia who supported the Turks during the War of Independence.
“Eftim became the leader of the ‘patriarchate’ in Kayseri in 1922 under the name of the ‘Independent Patriarchate of the Turkish Orthodox,'” said ElÃ§in Macar, the author of “İstanbul Rum Patrikhanesi” (İstanbul Greek Patriarchate, 2003) and a professor at the Yıldız Technical University’s department of political science and international relations.
Eftim and his family were exempted from the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, but his small congregation moved out of the country. Without any congregation, Eftim moved to İstanbul in 1924, together with the “patriarchate,” Macar explained. Eftim had some followers in Galata, an area with a large Greek population.
“Eftim and his sons call themselves ‘patriarchs.’ Who elected them? When? Eftim’s son Turgut succeeded his father and called himself Patriarch Eftim II. Then came Turgut’s brother, and then they brought Paşa [Sevgi Erenerol’s brother] from the United States to assume the role of the ‘Patriarch.’ They have all been excommunicated by the Orthodox Church,” Bishop Meliton said. […]
In addition to property lost to the bogus patriarchate, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate has also had many churches taken away by the Turkish Foundations General Directorate. The Patriarchate once had 90 churches in İstanbul and on the islands of GÃ¶kÃ§eada (Imbros) and Bozcaada (Tenedos), the deeds of which belong to the foundation of each church. The Turkish Foundations General Directorate arbitrarily assumed the management of 24 of these foundations, together with their property, calling them “mazbut.” “The Foundations General Directorate claims to have the right to rent or transfer these properties — churches, schools, etc. — to third parties,” Bishop Meliton said, explaining the implications of the “mazbut” status.
“Look what happened to the Greek church and school in Edirnekapı. They are in shambles. In addition, the Foundations General Directorate rented the school in the courtyard of the church to somebody who established a billiard saloon there,” he said, showing pictures of the inside of the decaying church and the school building.
He added that the Patriarchate had to go to the European Court of Human Rights for the first time to stand up for its ownership rights over the orphanage building on the island of BÃ¼yÃ¼kada.
“We don’t want to go to the court again. We want to solve all our problems in a spirit of good faith and cooperation with the Turkish government. We are tax-paying voters. We serve in the Turkish army. We are loyal Turkish citizens. We don’t have political ambitions at all. We have no ties with any sort of gangs. We don’t want to be like the Vatican either. We just want to preserve our churches and our faith.”
The Turkish Parliament has been debating a bill on minority foundations that was previously vetoed by former President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on the grounds that “it may serve to strengthen minority foundations.” State Minister Hayati Yazıcı said last month that these concerns were not shared by Parliament’s Justice Commission.