Washington, D.C. — Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, introduced legislation condemning Turkey’s treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is the spiritual home of the world’s oldest and second largest Christian Church.
“The Turkish government talks about religious freedom; but at the end of the day, it has not honored even a modicum of religious freedom to the most revered Christian institution in Turkey,” said Royce.
The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is one of the worldʼs preeminent spiritual leaders, representing approximately 300 million Orthodox Christian worldwide. Yet successive Turkish governments have followed policies which disparage the spiritual head: refusing to recognize his status as leader of a major religious faith, viewing him as solely the head of the small Greek Orthodox community of Istanbul.
“Established in the fourth century, the Patriarchate has been reduced to a small besieged enclave in Istanbul. Extremists often demonstrate outside the Patriarchate, calling for his ouster from Turkey. He has even been burned in effigy,” noted Royce.
Turkey has actively been seeking membership into the European Union.
“This is a litmus test. If Turkey cannot recognize the value of this revered institution, what makes one believe that Turkey will respect the liberal values and traditions that define Europe?” concluded Royce.
The legislation calls on Turkey to: grant the Ecumenical Patriarchate appropriate international recognition and ecclesiastic succession; grant the Ecumenical Patriarchate the right to train clergy of all nationalities, not just Turkish nationals; and respect the property rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Royce was jointed by House Foreign Affairs Committee members Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA) and Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) in introducing this resolution.