Turkey: Armenian deputy files questions over district governor's remarks on Patriarch's status
Garo Paylan, the Armenian deputy for the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) in the Turkish National Assembly, filed a parliamentary question regarding a statement by a district governorship in Istanbul on the status of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
The Governorship of Fatih district released a statement on Monday and said, "The claim that the Patriarchate is ecumenical has no legal basis."
The governorship cited a decision by the Turkish Court of Cassation that recognition of minority rights which have been denied to the majority is unconstitutional, while it also referred to a 1923 statement by Istanbul Governor's Office that all patriarchal candidates should be citizens of the Turkish Republic. Fatih Governorship deduced from the latter that "it is a clear indication that the Patriarchate is not ecumenical."
Diyarbakir deputy Paylan asked the Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu the following questions:
- Why do you let the State interfere in religious issues?
- Is it the duty of the Governor of Fatih district to make statements on the status of minority institutions protected by the Treaty of Lausanne?
- Why does the Fatih Governorship feel the need to step in when the Turkish Presidency recognizes Patriarch Bartholomew as ecumenical?
- Is it expected that the Fatih Governorship may prevent hundreds of millions of Orthodox believers from recognizing Bartholomew as ecumenical?
- Do you intend to explain to the Governor of Fatih district that ecumenical is a spiritual title that indicates universality.
In May 2010, asked whether he felt uncomfortable with the use of the title "ecumenical" for Bartholomew, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish Prime Minister at the time, said:
"No, I do not feel uncomfortable with the use of the term. No, I do not, especially since my ancestors did not feel uncomfortable with it. But some people in my country may indeed feel uncomfortable with it."
In an official invitation of the Turkish Presidency, dated 26 November 2020, Bartholomew was addressed as "Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I."
The leader of a far right political party in Turkey, Devlet Bahceli, voiced a strong criticism of the use of the term "ecumenical", and said on Monday that the ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is only a cleric serving under Istanbul's district governorship of Fatih, and he could have no other status.
The recent controversy began when a Turkish businessman presented a gift to Bartholomew, Trabzon FC's uniform with "Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew" written on the back, a short time after Bartholomew said upon a reporter's question that he believed Trabzon FC will "a hundred percent" be the champion this year.