Senator Brownback holds hearing on Greek Orthodox Church in Turkey

Congressional Quarterly, Inc.
FDCH Political Transcripts
March 16, 2005 Wednesday







MARCH 16, 2005
















The briefing was held at 10:00 a.m. in Room 2360
Rayburn House Office Building, Washington, D.C., Christopher Smith,
co-chairman, moderating.

C. SMITH: Good morning. My name is Chris Smith. I’m the co- chairman
of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Just very briefly, by way of background, I have served on the
commission since my second term, which began in 1983. And this
briefing is an important briefing. And we’ll get into the substance
very, very shortly.

But I do want to recognize that it’s so good to see my old friend and
colleague, Bob Edgar. Bob and I served on the House Committee on
Veterans Affairs for a large number of years. Matter of fact, we were
just talking. One of his chief assistants is now the director of
government affairs for the Paralyzed Veterans of America and is doing
a great job there.

But it’s so good to see you, Bob, after all these years.

Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I do convene now this Helsinki
Commission briefing to highlight congressional concerns regarding
systematic Turkish government efforts to undermine the existence of
the Greek Orthodox Church in Turkey.

With the date for E.U. negotiations now set, Turkey has taken bold
steps to bring its laws into harmony with European Union standards.
At the same time, however, Turkey’s policies concerning religious
freedom and the Greek Orthodox Church have come under increased
international scrutiny, and so they should.

Our concerns include property expropriation and continued closure of
the Halki Seminary, obstacles to ownership and repair of churches,
and the steadfast refusal of Turkish authorities to recognize the
ecumenical status of the Orthodox patriarch.

Today we have an outstanding group of panelists who will speak to
these concerns. And this information, by the way, will then be passed
on to members of Congress, House and Senate, so that they can be
better informed about what is really going on.

In addition, the Helsinki Commission will hold a second briefing in
the near future to highlight problems faced by Muslims and other
faiths in Turkey.

The justification for property seizures is complex, but the core
issue is simple: The patriarch-owned properties have shrunk by almost
80 percent, from 8,000 in 1936 to 1,700 at present; 1,100 of the
remaining 1,700 are not legally recognized and are especially
vulnerable to seizure.

There is a pattern: Properties are threatened with expropriation when
the population of a religious community drops below a certain level.
The government then determines a property has fallen into disuse, as
they call it, and assumes its management.

Last September, Turkey did adopt regulations to improve the way the
size of the religious community is gauged to give communities with
legal status the ability to acquire new property.

However, the legislation ignores the fact that these seizures are
fundamentally illegal, while not allowing communities to reclaim
hundreds of properties expropriated by the state.

The most glaring property issues regarding the Orthodox Theological
School of Halki, seized in 1971, when the government nationalized all
institutions of higher education.

The continued closure of the only educational institution in Turkey
for Orthodox Christian leadership is untenable and unconscionable.

This has had a deleterious effect on the ability of Turkey’s Greek
Orthodox citizens to train the next generation of clergy.

The Greek Orthodox Church in other communities, like the Armenian
Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox and Catholic churches, have been deprived
of important cultural sites and places of worship.

Reformers should terminate the ability of the government agencies to
seize the property of a religious community, while also simplifying
the process for groups to regain clear title to their lost holdings.

Should there be no local community, the property should revert to the
religious community and not to the state.

Reportedly, the foreign ministry’s reform monitoring committee is
advocating for reforms that ensure the return of seized property or
the payment of compensation. I certainly hope this happens.

The issue is, indeed, black and white. Property must be returned and
expropriations must end.

Members of the Helsinki Commission have been constant and vocal
advocates for the Greek Orthodox Church, as well as other religious
groups experiencing problems in Turkey, be they Muslim, Christian or

Current Turkish policies violate OSCE commitments and threaten the
viability of the patriarch’s presence in Istanbul.

Turkey has a proud history of religious tolerance, but current
government policies appear targeted to bring about the eventual
exodus of the Greek Orthodox from Turkey entirely.

I urge the government of Turkey to continue with its good reform
program, but take immediate actions to support the Orthodox citizens
and bring its laws and policies into conformity with the OSCE

I’d like to now turn our program to Elizabeth Pryor, who is one of
our experts on the Helsinki Commission, who will be introducing our
distinguished panel. And then we will go into the briefing itself.


PRYOR: It is my pleasure to introduce our distinguished panelists
today. After their presentations, we’ll take questions.


PRYOR: After the presentations, we’ll be taking questions from the
floor. And you can also get a copy of the proceedings. Usually,
they’re available within 24 hours from our Web site, which is

Our first panelist today will be His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios,
who was elected archbishop of America on August 19th, 1999, by the
Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarch, convened by His
All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

He was enthroned as the spiritual leader of 1.5 million Greek
Orthodox Christians in America at the Archdiosean Cathedral of the
Holy Trinity in New York City on September 18th, 1999.

Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America
and Exarch of Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, is the sixth Archbishop of
America since the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese was established in 1922.

Our next panelist after this will be Rabbi Arthur Schneier. He’s
known internationally for both his leadership on behalf of religious
freedom and human rights and his work for religious freedom and
tolerance. He is founder and president of the Appeal of Conscience
Foundation and spiritual leader of the Park East Synagogue, a
historic landmark in New York City.

Mr. Schneier is a Holocaust survivor who has devoted a lifetime to
overcoming forces of hatred and intolerance, and has set an inspiring
example of spiritual leadership by encouraging interfaith dialogue
and intercultural understanding, and promoting the cause of religious
freedom around the world.

Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick was installed as archbishop of
Washington on January 3rd, 2001. He’s chancellor of the Catholic
University of America, president of the Board of Trustees of the
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. A
founding member of the Papal Foundation, he has served as its
president since 1997.

PRYOR: Cardinal McCarrick also is a member of the Board of Catholic
Relief Services.

For the Vatican, he serves on the Pontifical Council for Justice and
Peace, the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and
Itinerant People, and the Pontifical Commission for Latin America.

Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis is graduate of Duke University School of
Medicine and is the president of Busselton (ph) Radiology Associates
Ltd., a radiology practice in metropolitan Philadelphia.

Dr. Limberakis was invested as Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
in 1987 and has served on its national council since 1989, and
subsequently as its national secretary.

He chaired the Archon Patriarchal Concert for Peace, featuring Nana
Mouskouri during the recent visitation to America of His All
Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

And finally, the Reverend Dr. Bob Edgar serves as general secretary
of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S., the
leading U.S. organization for the movement for Christian unity.

Under his leadership, the council is refocusing its energies on two
major initiatives. One is a 10-year domestic mobilization to overcome
poverty. The other is an exploration of an expanded ecumenical vision
for the new millennium, a conversation that includes evangelical and
Pentecostal churches, the Roman Catholic Church, and the council’s
member communities.

I think we’ll start with Archbishop Demetrios. And let me turn the
floor over to you, sir.

DEMETRIOS: Honorable representatives and U.S. Representatives and
members of the Helsinki Commission, Representative Smith, Ms. Pryor,
distinguished members of the panel, ladies and gentlemen:

We thank you for giving us the opportunity to speak about the very
difficult situation in which our venerable Ecumenical Patriarchate of
Constantinople finds itself vis-a-vis the Turkish government.

I’m speaking to you as the Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church in
America, with a constituency between 1.5 million and 2 million
people, a constituency which ecclesiastically belongs to the
Ecumenical Patriarchate.

As the archbishop of this church, I feel that what happens to the
Ecumenical Patriarchate has a direct impact on us here, both as
Orthodox Christians and as American citizens.

And I’m speaking with an increased experience, because for the last
year I have been a member of the Synod of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate, participating there once a month for two days in the
works of the patriarchate, therefore I have an immediate experience
of what’s going on.

The foundation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate may be traced to the
very apostolic times, to the 1st century A.D., when Christianity
reached what is now Turkey.

In the 4th century A.D., Emperor Constantine transferred to the
capital of the Roman empire to the east to the so-called at that time
known as Byzantium, and named the new city Constantinople.

It was in the context — in this context — that the Ecumenical
Patriarchate began to take its institutional form that we know today
as the religious and ecclesiastical administrative center of the
Orthodox Church worldwide.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate and its surrounding areas served as the
locations for the seven ecumenical councils of the undivided
Christian church, which were convened over the course of the first

The Ecumenical Patriarchate continued to exist even after the
dissolution and the fall of the Byzantium empire in 1453. It existed
and at times even thrived under the rule of the Ottoman Empire, and
since the founding of the Turkish Republic in the 20th century.

Today, there is great importance for the continued ministry of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate in coordinating the affairs of other Orthodox
Christian jurisdictions worldwide, in fostering dialogue with other
Christian denominations, and in promoting peace, tolerance and
reconciliation among the religions of the world.

DEMETRIOS: Despite this realized importance of its ministry, the
Ecumenical Patriarchate today and its constituency in Turkey continue
to suffer from an unfair treatment at the hands of the Turkish state.

A tragic instance of this treatment were the riots of 1955, carried
out in Smyrna and Istanbul against the Greek Orthodox minority

These sad phenomena, which were provoked by the Turkish government,
unjustly reduced a flourishing community of over 100,000 Greek
Orthodox citizens in the city of Istanbul alone to the present
remnant of only 2,000 to 3,000 — from 100,000 down to 2,000 to 3,000

The effects of this reduction led to an expropriation against the
Greek Orthodox community by the Turkish government (inaudible)
continues to this day.

Characteristic of this expropriation was the closure of theological
school mentioned already by Mr. Smith, the closure of the Theological
School of Halki on the island of Heybeli in 1971, on the pretext of
its being a privately run university-level academic institution.

In spite of numerous petitions and appeals to the Turkish government
for its reopening, including personal appeals made by Presidents
George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton — and allow me to say that I was
there when both presidents arrived and spoke on behalf of the Halki
reopening — in spite of this advocacy, the government of Turkey
still refuses to allow this important school to reopen.

The Theological School of Halki is the only institution of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate for the training of its clergy. One cannot
underestimate its importance for the essential survival of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate. If you don’t have a school, you don’t have
clergy. If you don’t have clergy, you go down by an inexorable

Another major problem facing the Ecumenical Patriarchate today is the
continuous confiscation of church property by the Turkish government,
which refuses to recognize titles to Greek Orthodox minority
properties purchased or acquired by donation after 1936.

Recently, the supreme court of Turkey ruled against the Ecumenical
Patriarchate, allowing the government to confiscate a very large and
historic orphanage belonging to the Greek Orthodox community on the
island of Prinyaport (ph).

Approximately 1,400 properties belonging to the Ecumenical
Patriarchate have been confiscated, of which 152 were recently taken
from the Baloukli hospital in Istanbul. This hospital of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate serves the needs of the general Turkish
citizenry, with quite advanced centers for drug and alcohol

Today, the Baloukli hospital is threatened with bankruptcy by the
recent imposition of an unbearable retroactive tax on the grounds
that it is not considered a nonprofit organization.

Yet another problem is the refusal of the Turkish government to
recognize the legitimate ecumenical title of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate. This title refers to the conciliatory role of the
Ecumenical Patriarchate in its global ministry.

It is a title that is historically established since the 6th century
and internationally recognized by political and religious
communities. Yet the Turkish government refuses to allow the
Ecumenical Patriarchate to use this title in all contexts.

There is not only this unhistoric prohibition of the title Ecumenical
Patriarchate, but the government refuses to allow the patriarchate,
as well to other religious minorities, to have a legal status as

In closing, I would like to express my deep pain and serious concern
at the very existence of this phenomena in Turkey today, especially
at a time when the international community is particularly sensitive
to the importance of religious freedom, human rights and the
protection of the rights of religious minorities.

These problems are all the more distressing when one considers that
the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been a major and consistent proponent
over the recent years in favor of Turkey’s accession to the European

It is my hope that the commission will give urgent attention to these
problems so that the Greek Orthodox community of Turkey and the
patriarchate, together with all other minority communities in Turkey,
such as the Jewish and Armenian communities, may be protected in its
lawful right to contemplate a secure existence and a prosperous

Thank you.

At this point, I would like to ask for a short interference,
intervention, by the distinguished lawyer, Mr. Emmanuel Demos, who
has been heavily involved in the whole issue of the rights of the
patriarchate over the last years.

DEMOS: Thank you, Your Eminence.

Distinguished members of the council, of the panel, I am the general
counsel of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese. I have with me here today
the legal basis of our case, is contained in a study, a 60- page
study done by the Yale Law School, the Lowenstein Human Rights Clinic
of the Yale Law School. And this will be available on the Internet,
and you’ll be able to share in it.

And with me is Professor Jim Silk of the Yale Law School, who heads
the Lowenstein Clinic, and one of the authors of this report, Maria
Pulzetti, to whom I will cede part of my time.

I just want to make a couple of comments.

DEMOS: In addition to the complaints that His Eminence referred to,
the most serious one at the moment is the fact that the Turkish
government, contrary to the Treaty of Lausanne, which I’ll refer to
in a moment, insists that it has the right to approve or disapprove
or veto the person who might be nominated to be the Ecumenical
Patriarchate and insists that that person be a Turkish citizen.

On top of that, they have been insisting that the members of the Holy
Synod, which in effect in American corporate parlance is the
executive committee of the patriarchate, which consists of 12
archbishops or metropolitans, they have been insisting that they be
Turkish residents and citizens.

There is absolutely no basis in Turkish law for this. And the Treaty
of Lausanne makes it absolutely clear that this type of interference
is unwarranted. And the Treaty of Lausanne, within its own terms,
states that the treaty is part of the fundamental law of Turkey and
may not be changed by any other legislative or administrative action.

The patriarch very bravely last year sent a letter to the Turkish
government and informed them that this was his position, and as a
result he named six new metropolitans and archbishops to the
Ecumenical Synod, of which His Eminence was one. And to date the
Turkish government has not been heard from. I mean, theoretically,
they could have arrested the six and run them out of the country. But
they have quietly acquiesced to that.

So this is one of the major things that we have concern with, because
opening the School of Halki, it would be 10, 12 years before you can
raise, educate and give experience to students so they could rise
into leadership positions. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, by its own
terms, is ecumenical and is the leader of archdioceses and dioceses
metropolises throughout the whole world, and there’s absolutely no
legal reason why this should be limited to Turkish citizens.

I also want to make the point that this is not a Greek versus Turkish
issue. That’s for the Greek government to worry about. This is a
human rights issue. And it’s a human rights issue not limited to the
Greek ethnic group. The Treaty of Lausanne talks about non-Muslim
minorities. Which means it could be Jewish, it could be Catholic, it
could be Greek Orthodox.

As a matter of fact, the Wall Street Journal several months ago, in a
front page story, told the story of a Presbyterian minister, the
Reverend Balima (ph), who somehow turned up in Turkey, at first to
minister to expats who were living and had retired to certain parts
of southern Turkey. And he raised some money to buy a church. The
Turkish government has refused to let him buy this church.

In the meantime, there are Turkish people, originally Muslims, who
apparently want to join this church. And it would seem to me, if
you’re a non-Muslim and you’re a citizen of Turkey, you’re protected
by the Treaty of Lausanne as well.

The prime minister of the Netherlands, on a trip to Turkey, bitterly
complained to the Turkish prime minister and pointed out that there
are over 300 mosques in the Netherlands alone, not to mention how
many there may be throughout all of Europe. And he just could not
understand why the Turkish government couldn’t allow this.

As His Eminence said, we wholeheartedly support the accession of
Turkey into the European Union, because I think this will have a
beneficial effect on all of Europe.

But the bottom line, if you want to be part of Europe, act like a

I will now turn it over — because in addition to the Treaty of
Lausanne, there are at least four or five European and other
international treaties to which Turkey is a party, which make it
unequivocally clear that ever action that the Turkish government has
taken is illegal.

And they pay great lip service that they do everything legally, but
in effect it’s a very, very cynical use of the law, because they find
every little thing to pervert the law.

They passed legislation in response to the European Union three years
ago in order to make it easier for people — for religious groups to
register their properties, and yet they turn around and they
administer the law where they make it even more difficult and put
time periods and this and that.

So, in effect, they’ve turned the thing on its head and make it more
difficult for the desired objective of the European Union to be

Maria, do you want to…

PULZETTI: Hello. My name is Maria Pulzetti, and I am a student at the
Yale Law School and a student in the Lowenstein International Human
Rights Clinic at the law school.

I’d like to thank the commission and Archbishop Demetrios for
allowing us to share our report with you today.

I just want to give a very brief overview of the report. I think
anyone who is interested in a more detailed analysis can pick up a
copy outside.

The report is titled “Turkey’s Compliance with its Obligations to the
Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Orthodox Christian Minority.” And we
researched this report at the request of the archdiocese, and we
found that there’s a very clear international consensus that Turkey
does not uphold its obligations with regard to the patriarchate and
the Orthodox minority.

As a party to several international human rights treaties, a member
state of the Council of Europe and a participating state in the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Turkey has taken
on binding obligations to protect the rights of religious minorities
and to prevent discrimination on the basis of national origin,
religion or ethnicity, all of which apply to the Greek Orthodox

Turkey violates these obligations with its law and practice
restricting the activities of the patriarchate. The European Union,
United Nations bodies and the United States have repeatedly
criticized Turkey’s discriminatory treatment of religious minorities,
and in particular their restriction upon the activities of the

For example, the U.S. State Department issues annual — I’m sure
you’re all familiar with these reports — country reports on human
rights practices. And for each year over the past several years, and
indeed in the report that was issued this year, on February 28th of
2005, the State Department criticizes such issues as the legal status
of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the treatment of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate’s foundations, the seizure of property, the closure of
the Halki Seminary, and the leadership restrictions upon the Synod.

The European Union, which issues frequent reports on Turkey’s
compliance with the accession criteria, has also criticized Turkey’s
restriction on the legal personality of the Ecumenical Patriarchate,
on the seizure of property, on the treatment of non-Muslim religious
minority foundations, on the restrictions on the training of Orthodox
clergy, and on reservations Turkey has made to international
treaties, especially with regard to religious education.

I wanted to tell you a little bit more about sort of the sources of
international law that we looked to in making our findings.

In recent years, Turkey ratified the two major U.N. human rights
treaties that together with the Universal Declaration make up what we
call the International Bill of Human Rights. These are the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the ICCPR; and
the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,
which has a very long acronym.

And the ICCPR in Article 18 protects freedom of thought, conscience
and religion. And the U.N. Human Rights Committee, which interprets
the ICCPR, has interpreted Article 18 to protect the building of
places of worship, the freedom to choose religious leaders, and the
freedom to establish seminaries or religious schools.

Similarly, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights protects the right to education and obligates states
not to interfere with the right of individuals and bodies to
establish and direct educational institutions.

Another major U.N. human rights treaty, which is actually the most
widely ratified human rights treaty in existence today, is the
Convention on the Rights of the Child. Turkey has ratified this
convention. And this convention protects children’s rights to
manifest and practice religious beliefs and the right to religious

Now, in ratifying these three treaties, Turkey did enter reservations
to its ratification, especially with regard to religious minorities.
And although these ratifications have some arguable force in
international law, it is notable that the European Union has
criticized sharply Turkey’s ratifications to those central provisions
of those treaties.

You all here are quite familiar also with the OSCE and Turkey’s
obligations with regard to the OSCE, so I won’t go on about that for
too long. But the OSCE does include obligations to protect the rights
of national minorities, and those are interpreted to protect national
minorities’ rights to establish and maintain their own educational,
cultural and religious institutions, organizations and associations.

And it’s worth noting that the OSCE High Commissioner on National
Minorities has visited Turkey to investigate Turkey’s protection of
religious minorities.

Finally, I would like to briefly introduce the European Convention on
Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

PULZETTI: As a member state of the Council of Europe, Turkey is
obliged to uphold the provisions of the European Convention. There
are two relevant provisions of the European Convention to this issue.
The first is Article 9, which requires Turkey to protect freedom of
religion, including freedom to manifest religion and worship,
teaching, practice and observance.

As interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights, Article 9
applies to religious groups and organizations, as well as to

Article 1 of Protocol 1 to the convention protects the right to
peaceful enjoyment of one’s possessions. And this also applies to
both institutions and individuals.

The court’s jurisprudence on Article 1 of Protocol 1 strongly
protects individuals’ and religious institutions’ rights to own and
enjoy their property.

We interpret it that Turkey’s seizure and restriction on the use of
the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s real property may violate Article 1 of
Protocol 1 of the European Convention.

And the last note I would like to make is that in the European Union
accession process, which has been very much in the news lately with
regard to Turkey’s human rights compliance, the European Commission
has repeatedly criticized Turkey’s treatment of religious minorities.

In their accession report of 2004, the commission wrote, “Although
freedom of religious belief is guaranteed in the constitution and
freedom to worship is largely unhampered, non-Muslim religious
communities continue to encounter obstacles. They lack legal
personality, face restrictive property rights and interference in the
management of their foundations, and are not allowed to train

In conclusion, all religious minorities in Turkey have
internationally protected rights to practice their religion, train
clergy, appoint religious leaders, own and use property, operate
religious schools, and associate in religiously affiliated

The Turkish government also has an obligation to protect the security
of non-Muslim minorities and religious institutions.

PRYOR: Thank you very much.

And thank you, Archbishop.

I’d like to give the floor now to Rabbi Schneier.

You have the floor, sir.

SCHNEIER: Chairman Smith and members of the Helsinki Commission, Your
Eminence and members of the panel:

It’s my privilege to appear before this commission to give you some
insights to the Appeal of Conscience Foundation’s encounters with the
government of Turkey since 1991.

I also want to commend the United States Helsinki Commission for the
important work it has accomplished since its inception in 1976 on
behalf of human rights and religious and ethnic minorities.

Appeal of Conscience Foundation since 1965 has worked on behalf of
religious freedom and human rights and the protection of religious
sites. In fact, in the year 2000 we took the initiative to urge the
United Nations to adopt a resolution for the protection of religious
sites worldwide.

I’m happy to tell you that U.N. Resolution A55L81, which was
unanimously adopted by the General Assembly, called for the
protection of all religious sites worldwide, and Turkey was one of
the signatories of that U.N. resolution, as I said, which was
unanimously adopted.

I have a particular interest in the protection of religious sites
because as a child in Vienna — and I’m a Holocaust survivor — I saw
my synagogue burning on Kristallnacht in 1938. And what started with
the burning of books, and continued with the destruction and burning
of synagogues, eventually ended up with the burning of human beings.

So this issue of protection of religious sites and human rights and
religious freedom is a very personal issue, which I feel very deeply
about. It was only 60 years ago that we put an end to the Nazi
tyranny that claimed millions and millions of innocent human lives.

And as we have heard, so many treaties have been enacted, both at the
U.N. and the European Community. The question is really not just the
signing, but the implementation and the enforcement.

And so let me recall my trip to Ankara and Istanbul in 1991, with
Cardinal McCarrick, trustee of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation,
then archbishop of Newark. We went to Ankara and Istanbul. Remember,
this was the collapse of the Soviet Union. You had many, many Muslim
states in Central Asia. And the question: Which way are they going to
turn? And I actually made a statement on return from that trip that
Turkey could be a role model instead of Iran being a role model for
these Central Asian Muslim communities.

We met at the time with His All Holiness, Patriarch Bartholomew I,
and proposed a cosponsorship of an international conference called
the Peace and Tolerance Conference. I have a witness here. Father
Alex (ph) was present. And His All Holiness enthusiastically
supported the idea.

We met with then Prime Minister Demirel and leaders of the Turkish
government. And after overcoming several obstacles, it was agreed
that this conference should take place, and it did take place at the
Bosphorus Swissotel in Istanbul in 1994.

We brought together religious leaders from Central Asia and the
strife-torn Balkans. Remember, this was 1994. Actually, I still
remember the market murder in Sarajevo at the time, when the
conference took place. And 120 religious leaders gathered in Istanbul
under the joint auspices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the
Appeal of Conscience Foundation, with the support of Pope John Paul
II, who sent Cardinal Netchkarai (ph) to this conference to represent

Anyhow, it was a very widely supported Conference of Peace and
Tolerance. As a result of that conference, the conclusion was — and
it’s so prophetic in a way what we concluded then — a crime
perpetrated in the name of religion is the greatest crime against

Now, it sounds very relevant today, doesn’t it? But we spoke about
that in connection with the conflict in the former Yugoslavia, the
ethnic conflict, that luckily did not turn into a major religious

So Cardinal McCarrick and I, speaking to the leaders of Turkey in
preparation for the conference, immediately hit up to a very
sensitive issue, which I believe is still the core of the difficulty
today. And that is, we referred to the Ecumenical Patriarch as the
Ecumenical Patriarch.

In talking to the government leaders, they kept on saying, “No,
Rumpatrichanayza (ph).”

Now, there’s really a question of the definition of the legal status
of the Ecumenical Patriarch, which is still a bone of contention. And
I think that this issue is still haunting us. In fact, the Lausanne
Treaty was invoked by you. There’s a clear definition of establishing
the role of the patriarch.

Anyhow, despite the initial obstacles, the Peace and Tolerance
Conference brought credit to Turkey as a venue for inter-religious
cooperation in pursuit of peace and tolerance.

It was widely reported. It was a very, very successful conference.
And a byproduct of the conference was also the improvement of
relations between the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Turkish
authorities at that time.

But, again, the ecumenical status, the legal status of the
patriarchate still needs to be recognized by Turkey today. That’s
really the critical point.

The Turkish government — and this is a very firm statement — the
Turkish government should take advantage of the worldwide respect
that the Ecumenical Patriarch enjoys from the international
community. And here I really speak as a partner with His All
Holiness. We’ve been together in action, not only in Istanbul, in
Brussels, the European Community, and many, many other conference.

I would say today he is the — one of the outstanding leaders in
terms of dialogue, inter-religious cooperation, preaching tolerance
— all the essential and critical requirements today for all of us to
coexist on this earth.

And the Turkish government should really take advantage of his
standing in the international community, as well, and I emphasize,
from his constructive role to put greater harmony in Turkish society.
He has always emphasized that, the harmony of Turkish society.

Another issue which the Appeal of Conscience Foundation has
repeatedly called to the attention of the Turkish government — and
I’ve had personally many discussions with cabinet ministers — is the
closing of the seminary in Halki.

A theological school is really a lifeline. And if you don’t have that
lifeline, you know, it’s like you cannot breathe unless you have air.
And the reopening is essential for the continued spiritual well being
and continuity of the small Greek Orthodox community in Turkey.

So I think this is an issue, Your Eminence, you have in detail
outlined. You’ve given us an overview, the historical overview, but
also specifically you made a point of this issue.

Then, finally, I traveled to Turkey after the 2003 terrorist bombing
of the Istanbul synagogue. And I must tell you, what came clearly
through to me, that international terrorism makes no distinction
between Christian, Jew and Muslim. We are all equal. And basically
what we’re facing, either we stand together and reject those who do
not believe in coexistence or we succumb to them.

We’re not going to succumb to them because we want to live — and
this is a personal philosophy of mine — to live and let live. And
basically that’s the message that I would urge the Helsinki
Commission to convey to the Turkish government: Live and let live.
And that means the minorities, religious and ethnic minorities.

And the test of democracy, the barometer of democracy, is how the
majority treats the minority. How the majority treats the minority.

So it was devastating to see the destruction that was brought by
these suicide bombers who had no respect for their own life, and
certainly no respect for the life of others.

I visited the maimed and the sick, more Muslims than Jews, in the
hospitals, in the American hospital in Istanbul. His Holiness
Bartholomew and I were at the funeral of many of the victims who

And, again, the Turkish government is to be commended for aiding the
restoration of the destroyed buildings and business establishments.
But it is surprising, according to reports that we received, that the
patriarchate has been unable to receive permission to repair the
damage it suffered to one of its churches from the bombing. I think
these reports are correct.

SCHNEIER: And finally, we stood shoulder to shoulder with the Turkish
people, if you recall that tragedy of the earthquake. And it was my
privilege — and this was the height of summer, the end of August,
when there’s no one around in Washington — of bringing together the
religious leaders of this great American community to Washington, to
the State Department, with Secretary of State Albright, including the
acting head of the Greek Orthodox Church and the Armenian church.

We all stood together during that tragedy trying to seek and actually
give, to energize the American public opinion for support. And
American Christians, Muslims and Jews, we stood together to help our
brothers and sisters in Turkey to cope with their terrible tragedy.
And the call for action and prayer emanated from the meeting with
Secretary Albright.

In the same spirit — and with this I close — we call upon the
government of Turkey to support the principle of equitable treatment
of all minorities.

Yes, we, too, support Turkey’s entry into the European Union. And
this is why I think it’s important that Turkey pay particular
attention to the needs of its religious and ethnic minorities. And I
believe that, again I want to repeat, I think Turkey should take a
leadership role in showing the international community that, in
addition to being signatory to all the various charters and
conventions, there’s a firm commitment to the principle of live and
let live.

Thank you so much.

PRYOR: Thank you very much.

My understanding is that Cardinal McCarrick is running a little bit
late, but will be joining us later. So at this moment I’d like to
turn the floor over to Dr. Limberakis.

You have the floor.

LIMBERAKIS: Your Eminence, our beloved Archbishop, Congressman Smith,
Ms. Pryor, members of the Helsinki Commission, and distinguished
panelists with me:

I thank the Helsinki Commission for the opportunity to bring to its
attention the deleterious effects and efforts of the government of
Turkey to undermine the existence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of
Constantinople, the spiritual center of the world’s 300 million
Orthodox Christians located in Istanbul, Turkey.

I am the national commander of the order of St. Andrew, Archons of
the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which is under the direct jurisdiction
of the Ecumenical Patriarch and its exarch in the United States,
Archbishop Demetrios of America.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is the victim of
religious persecution by the government of Turkey. This persecution
if systemic, involving multiple levels of government, including local
and national, judicial and legislative. It is insidious, occurring
over many decades, and devastating, designed to ultimately obliterate
the very existence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

The Order of St. Andrew is an organization comprised of leading
Orthodox Christians in the United States whose mission is to support
and defend the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Our ranks include members of
Congress, such as Senator Paul Sarbanes and Congressman Michael
Bilirakis; former member of White House administrations, including
George Tenet and Tom Korologos (ph); businessmen, such as Alex
Spanos, the owner of the San Diego Chargers; professionals and
academicians, such as Dr. John Brademas (ph), former president of New
York University, and Dr. Constantine Papavakis (ph), president of
Drexel University; members of the federal bench; and preeminent
stewards of the Orthodox faith throughout the United States.

I wanted to bring to your attention various violations of religious
human rights that the Archons have personally witnessed during our
many pilgrimages to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, and our
recent visits with government leaders in Ankara.

LIMBERAKIS: The United States Department of State, with the
assistance of Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, and in
cooperation with past and present U.S. ambassadors to Turkey,
including Ambassadors Mark Parris, Robert Pearson and currently Eric
Edelman, has been instrumental in fortifying our position to seek
religious freedom in Turkey.

Ambassador Edelman is especially committed to seeking an improvement
in their dismal human rights record. He accompanied the Archon
leadership in February and December 2004 to meet with cabinet
ministers of the ruling AKP party in Ankara, including Deputy Prime
Minister and Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, Minister of Education
Huseyin Celik, Minister of State Responsible for Religious Affairs
Mehmet Aydin, and Minister of Interior Abdulkadir Aksu.

The government of Turkey imposes severe restrictions on the ownership
of property by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of the Greek Orthodox
community, as His Eminence commented earlier. It has confiscated
thousands of properties of the Greek Orthodox community.

And specifically, since 1936, when there were some 7,000 properties
registered as duly owned by Greek Orthodox community members, the
members have been gradually, systematically and dramatically
decreasing, to approximately 2,000 properties in 1999 and now to less
than 500 in 2005.

Stated another way, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its institutions
do not have the right to buy, sell, maintain and inherit properties.

A calamitous example of this process is taking place at this very
moment on the island of Buyukada off the coast of Istanbul. And I
draw your attention to a picture of this patriarchal orphanage, and
in front of that orphanage are American citizens who took the time to
leave their families and businesses and comforts of the United States
and travel to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and witness — these are
Archons and clergymen — and witness this religious persecution.

Regarding this patriarchal orphanage, on October 21, 2004, the
Turkish supreme court handed down a decision in favor of the
government and against the Ecumenical Patriarchate to confiscate this
orphanage, along with its vast properties, owned by the church since
1902, predating the Turkish Republic.

This facility once cared for 200 orphans, but due to the pogroms of
1955 and 1964, when most Greek inhabitants of Istanbul were forced to
emigrate, the orphanage fell into disuse and disrepair.

You should keep in mind, ladies and gentlemen, that for centuries
Greek Orthodox citizens comprised a steady 25 to 30 percent of the
population in Istanbul. They not constitute less than 2,000 in a city
of 12 million.

At the time of the most recent Archon visit in December, we inspected
the orphanage property and found it, as you can see in the picture,
to be in a state of complete ruin. Repeatedly attempts to maintain
the property were unsuccessful for decades because the authorities
refused to grant building permits.

Now the government of Turkey, with the approval of the supreme court,
has finalized plans to confiscate the property.

Another example of failing to grant building permits, which Rabbi
Schneier — and I’ll be happy to give you an update on this, Rabbi —
is regarding the November 2003 terrorist bombings in Istanbul. And by
the way, the Archon delegation visited Rabbi Heleva (ph), the grand
rabbi, chief rabbi of Turkey, offering our condolences for that
terroristic attack, which destroyed the British consulate, destroyed
and severely damaged two synagogues, but also severely damaged the
Church of the Virgin Mary, a Greek Orthodox church.

And on December 17th, it was just a couple of months ago, on that
fateful day, regarding the European Union, on December 17th the
Ecumenical Patriarchate did receive finally the permission to rebuild
the church that was destroyed.

But this waiting and not answering and ignoring requests for
assistance in rebuilding is not just unjust and unfair, but it really
is emblematic of the modus operandi of the Turkish government as it
deals with the Greek Orthodox minority.

In addition, during our recent inspection of Baloukli hospital and
home for the aged, which is a 250-year-old patriarchal-affiliated
institution located in Istanbul, which serves 30,000 to 40,000
Turkish citizens each year — and as a physician I could appreciate
that magnitude of a hospital — our own legal counselor, Chris
Tutakis (ph), received a certified list, certified by Demitri
Koriyani (ph), the board of trustees member — chairman — of 144
confiscated properties of this charitable institution.

And it is this same charitable institution that has now been informed
it is subject to a 42 percent retroactive tax to 1999.

Finally, another example of religious persecution, as has been
mentioned by the panelists, is the closure of Halki School of
Theology, resulting in the inability of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
to train its clergy locally.

Included among the graduates of the Halki seminary are His All
Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Biyakovos
(ph), the former Archbishop of North and South America.

The government has refused to allow the reopening of the seminary
despite assurances to President George W. Bush in January 2004 by
Prime Minister Erdogan, and to President Bill Clinton in November
1999 by President Suleyman Demirel.

In fact, we are now even more pessimistic and discouraged that Turkey
does not have the political will to reopen Halki, nor relax the
religious persecution that pervaded the government after our most
recent meeting with Foreign Minister Gul.

In his inaugural address President George W. Bush stated, quote, “We
will encourage reform in our governments by making clear that success
in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own
people.” And he continues, “In the long run, there is no justice
without freedom, and there can be no human rights without human
liberty,” unquote.

My fellow Americans of the Helsinki Commission, Turkey is denying
basic religious human rights to its own citizens of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate and Greek Orthodox community. These Turkish citizens do
not have the liberty to practice their faith without fear of attack,
to own property, to train their clergy, or to freely elect their
church leaders.

It is the expectation of the Orthodox citizens of the United States,
whose spiritual leadership is located in Istanbul, that Turkey must
comply with the various human rights documents to which they are

And if they wish to accede to the European Union, which the order
supports, they will need to correct the systemic, insidious and
devastating policies of religious persecution.

In closing, I respectfully wish to submit a number of exhibits as a
component of this presentation and thank the commission for your kind
invitation to present this.

PRYOR: Thank you very much.

I now give the floor to Reverend Dr. Bob Edgar.

You have the floor.

EDGAR: Thank you.

I’m Bob Edgar. I’m general secretary of the National Council of
Churches. I want to thank the Helsinki Commission for the opportunity
to speak today. And I’m grateful for the fact that when the bells are
ringing I don’t have to get up and run for a vote.

My office for many years was on the floor above us, and my committee
assignment was two floors below this particular room. I was on the
Public Works and Transportation Committee, and also served with
Congressman Smith on the Veterans Affairs Committee. And it’s fun to
be back in the building.

Your Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios, it is very good to see you and
to remember our time together, not only in New York, but also in Cuba
last year as we dedicated the Orthodox church in old Havana.

I want to speak to all of you just briefly as general secretary. And
we welcome Cardinal McCarrick, who has joined us at this point. I see
someone has twisted his arm to be here.


Many people think of the National Council of Churches as that really,
really liberal organization that you read about in the newspapers.
And I think it’s important for us at the beginning of this period,
and especially in this context, to recognize the texture of the
National Council of Churches.

We represent 36 different church traditions, from the historic black
church traditions of C.M.E. and A.M.E., the Living Peace Church
traditions of Quakers and Brethren, all the mainline churches, the
Lutherans and the Presbyterians and the United Methodists.

We also represent 13 Orthodox traditions, both Eastern and Oriental.
And we have been focused on a cross-section of theological and
religious perspectives for the last 55 years.

And I might say, just for Cardinal McCarrick’s benefit, the
eighth-largest funder of the National Council of Churches in the
United States is the Roman Catholic Church. While they are not
members of the council, they serve on our commissions dealing with
communications and justice and advocacy, and we work collaboratively
on issues of justice for the poor, and we work collaboratively on
issues relating to the environment.

It’s also important to recognize that the Ecumenical Patriarch of the
Orthodox Church is a person that we love throughout the Christian
community. We call him the green patriarch, because he has been a
leader in helping the world understand the importance of the
environment and care for Planet Earth.

I speak today in defense of the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarch of
the Orthodox Church, which is situated in modern-day Istanbul,

EDGAR: I do so on behalf of the Greek Orthodox brothers and sisters
who look to the Ecumenical Patriarchate as the cradle of their
Christian faith and who look to the Ecumenical Patriarch as their
spiritual leader.

The official title of the Ecumenical Patriarch says a lot about why
we are here today. His title is Archbishop of Constantinople, New
Rome, and Ecumenical Patriarch. History teaches us that when the
center of the civilized world moved from Rome to Constantinople in
the 4th century, the center of worldwide Christian Church moved with
it to what was known as the New Rome. From this new setting,
Christianity flourished and moved across what was then the known

While the subsequent centuries saw the unfortunate division of
Christianity into Roman Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox
communities, each to experience the good and the bad of history, it
nevertheless remains a fact that the ancient See of Constantinople
retains its place of ecclesial prominence among Orthodox churches and
its place of honor throughout the entire Christian world — not,
incidentally, something that goes unrecognized by Turkey today.

In reality, the Ecumenical Patriarch is the symbolic leader of the
world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians, not just Greek Orthodox, and
he has direct ecclesial jurisdiction over millions of Greek Orthodox
Christians throughout the world, including here in the United States,
where the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is a member of the
National Council of Churches USA.

The Greek Orthodox Church in Turkey, centered in the Ecumenical
Patriarchate, has suffered many indignities by virtue of its
existence as the heart of the Greek Orthodox minority in that
country. Yet, there are mechanisms in place that dictate that this
must not be so.

According to the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, which was mentioned
earlier, which ended World War I, the Greek Orthodox, Armenian
Orthodox and Jewish communities are recognized minorities in Turkey,
with their rights guaranteed by the Turkish government.

So central is this treaty to modern Turkey that this treaty takes
precedence over the Turkish constitution. While the Turkish
constitution itself makes no reference to the recognition of these
three specific minorities, it does state that religious freedom is a
right to be enjoyed by all Turkish citizens.

Significantly, as recently as 1999, Turkish government officials
recognized the minorities mentioned in this treaty.

EDGAR: Given this legal framework, one would think that the Greek
Orthodox community, as well as the Armenian Orthodox and Jewish
community has enjoyed a harmonious existence within Turkish society.
As we all know, the converse is true.

The issue before us today is the systematic expropriation of property
owned by individuals and institutions, including the Ecumenical
Patriarch, in the Greek Orthodox community in Turkey.

An arbitrary and capricious property rights regime has allowed the
confiscation of private properties, schools and churches. Currently,
there are attempts to confiscate an orphanage and an old age home and
other properties.

One result of these actions is the disenfranchisement of the Greek
Orthodox minority. Another result is the diminishment of their
presence due to immigration.

If these violations are allowed to continue, it will not be long
before the Greek Orthodox faithful in Istanbul, which number 110,000
in 1923 and numbers only several thousand today, will disappear.
Istanbul riots that were subsequently determined to be provoked by
the Turkish government at the time.

I would simply like to close by saying that we in the National
Council of Churches stand side by side with not only the Greek
Orthodox Church, but all the Orthodox Christian family in suggesting
strongly that if the Turkish government wants to be part of the
European Union it must recognize the rights and privileges of the
minority faith communities inside Turkey.

The Greek Orthodox Church in Turkey is a minority community whose
history is rich, who ecclesial tradition is vibrant, and whose people
are faithful.

Sadly, it is also a church whose future is threatened.

We urge the Turkish government to change its policies, think more
clearly about how it relates to both the church and the church’s
property, and begin moving into the future in relationship with this
very important religious tradition that is a minority in the
community of Turkey.

Thank you very much.

PRYOR: Thank you so much.

I’d like to welcome Cardinal McCarrick, who’s now joined us. We look
forward to hearing your comments, sir.

MCCARRICK: Thank you very much.

My name is Theodore McCarrick. I’m the Catholic archbishop of

My interest in the difficulties which the Greek Orthodox Church faces
in Turkey goes back a long time. I’m delighted to have an opportunity
to mention my concerns at this time to the distinguished members of
the Helsinki Commission and to all of you who are gathered here.

A slight digression would be that years ago I was privileged to serve
as a public member of the Helsinki Commission and attend meetings
both in the Balkans and in the former Soviet Union. So I know the
good work that the commission has accomplished. I’m delighted that
you continue to consider the difficulties of freedom of religion as
it is now faced by the Greek Orthodox Church.

This morning I speak not on behalf of the Catholic Church, nor on
behalf of the Conference of Bishops. I speak solely and purely in my
own name, as a friend of the Orthodox Church and as one who has had
the opportunity, both because of my membership in the Helsinki
Commission and also my privilege of serving as one of the original
members of our own federal commission on international freedom of

it was in both these capacities that I became aware of the
difficulties that the Greek Orthodox Church in Turkey is facing,
where we have always had the hope of bringing these problems clearly
into the light of day, so that our national might play a role in
bringing them to a happy (ph) resolution.

My own interest in this question came about initially when I was
privileged to be a member of the delegation of the Appeal of
Conscience Foundation, under the leadership of my distinguished
colleague and dear friend, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, some years ago.

Through the kindness of His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, we
were able to visit the Island of Halki personally, and there to see
the seminary which in past times had played so important a part in
the life of this important religious community.

Subsequent to that visit, I spoke to a number of agencies in our own
government, asking that this concern be raised with the government of
Turkey. I believe that in the administration of President Clinton
this was done in a strong manner, perhaps for the first time. I do
understand that it has recently been repeated because of the
continuing interest and concern of President Bush.

The manner in which the Turkish government, since the days of the
republic, has treated the Greek Orthodox Church is an indication of a
lack of understanding of the importance of this institution.
Historically, as has been pointed out so well by Dr. Edgar, and I’m
sure by others, the Greek Orthodox Church has been the guardian of
Eastern Christianity over so many centuries.

The head of the church, the Ecumenical Patriarch, has been recognized
as a successor of the Apostle Andrew, who was first called among all
of the apostles of the Lord. His role as the spiritual leader of the
millions of people throughout the world who the faithful of the
Orthodox community makes him one of the most important religious
leaders on the globe.

Unfortunately, to some in the Turkish government, he’s regarded only
as the pastor of a small group of several thousand Greek Christians
living in Istanbul.

It is perhaps here which is the basis of the difficulties with the
church teachers. It is in a lack of true understanding of the
importance of the patriarch and the importance of the church.

Turkey, one would hope, would be so proud to have among its citizens
and among its religious leaders one whose influence is felt not only
far beyond its borders, but, indeed, throughout the world.

The importance of His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew, the
president leaders of the church, is often underlined in the deep
respect and esteem in which he is held by the other major religious
leaders of the world.

One instance of this would be the manner in which the Holy Father,
Pope John Paul, received the Ecumenical Patriarch in the Vatican and
gives him every honor beyond that of any cardinal that I know and any
other ecclesiastical figure. He regards the patriarch as a dear
brother and as a true successor of the apostles in every sense of the

It is the Holy Father’s constant reaching out to the Ecumenical
Patriarch and to the Greek Orthodox Church that prompts so many of us
to continue our plea for that church to receive, especially in its
central headquarters of the Fenah (ph) in Istanbul, a respect and a
dignity that its place among the religions of the world demands for

MCCARRICK: I know that I would speak for so many Christians
throughout our own country when I would urge our government to be
sensitive to the plight of the Greek Orthodox Church in Turkey and to
do everything that is possible to make sure that these very
reasonable and understandable requests which you’ve heard about
already today are taken into consideration by the Turkish government
and are granted for the good of the church, and, indeed, it would
seem to me, also for the good of the Turkish nation — and this in a
special way as Turkey prepares to make its formal bid into the
European Community.

Prominent, as I began to mention before, prominent among all these
requests is the reopening of the theological school on the island of
Halki. This theological school was in a sense the West Point of the
Orthodox seminary. Here, many of the leading metropolitans and the
great theologians of the Orthodox world were trained.

As you understand, since the patriarch must be a Turkish citizen, and
since Turkish citizens would ordinarily be trained for the priesthood
in a seminary such as Halki, the closing of the seminary makes it
almost impossible for Turkey’s citizens to be prepared to accept the
highest responsibilities in the church today, thus creating an
enormous problem for the future of the patriarchy and of the church

There are, of course, other difficulties which the law on foundations
causes for the non-Muslim religious communities of Turkey today. The
regulations which are in place for these religious institutions often
base their relations on police ordinances, often oblige corporation
taxes to be paid by religious institutions, contrary to what is the
custom throughout the Western world, often freezes revenues from
property transactions of non-Muslim religious institutions.

For years now, the Greek Orthodox Church has tried very gently, and
yet very firmly and very clearly to negotiate these difficult
questions with the Turkish government and has not been successful.

I’m honored today to take part in this session with my dear brother,
His Beatitude Archbishop Demetrios, and Dr. Bob Edgar, and of course
Rabbi Schneier, and those others who have gathered here because of
this important request and this important cause that joins us all.

MCCARRICK: This is a cause which is worth struggling for. It is a
good worth striving for. And it is a road on which the United States
should be walking because of so many consequences that can come for
the good of the world if the Greek Orthodox community in Turkey has a
chance to exercise its religious freedom and to grow in grace and
holiness under the protection of the law and the respect of its
fellow citizens in the Turkish nation.

This is what I am here to ask for. This is what we all hope for
gathering this morning.

Thank you for letting me make this presentation.

PRYOR: Thank you very much, Cardinal.

And thank you, all of our panelists, for most informative and
interesting testimony.

We’re going to open the floor now to questions. I’m going to take the
prerogative of the chair and ask the first question, which I’ll
address to Archbishop Demetrios, although I’d be interested in
everybody’s comments on this.

And that is, as negotiations have gone forward with the Turkish
government for accession to the E.U., we haven’t really see an
improvement in the situation vis-a-vis the Greek Orthodox Church. I’m
wondering if you expect an improvement as the negotiations continue.
Is your prognosis optimistic? How do you see that situation?

DEMETRIOS: Prophetic (inaudible) is limited to some old times, and
predictions are extremely difficult, especially in politics and
international politics. But that’s a very, very serious question.

I would like to say, not to use the terminology of optimistic or
pessimism, but the terminology of hope; of hope and faith that this
is a wonderful opportunity during this period of processing the
accession of Turkey to the European Union. This will be a period that
will see clear, visible improvements in the relationship between the
Turkish government and the minority communities, especially the
Ecumenical Patriarchate.

It’s a strong hope. And I think not only is it a strong hope, it
seems to me it’s something dictated by the very, very well being of
the Turkish government and nation. They have to profit immensely from
this improvement. It’s not simply something for the patriarchate, it
is retroactive much stronger for the Turkish government itself.

Thank you.

PRYOR: Anybody? Cardinal, please.

MCCARRICK: I would just like to add that, if not now, then when? This
is a moment where the eyes of the whole world are on Turkey and on
its relationships with its minority communities.

This seems to me to be a very special moment. And if we let this
moment go, I’m not sure when there will be another moment that will
have the same opportunity and the same pressure. So that I would
really hope that there is movement now, and I think that the reason
for our gathering at this hearing today is our common hope that this
is the time when this will happen.

PRYOR: All right. I’m going to open the floor to questions.

QUESTION: A number of years ago, the Congress passed a resolution —
rather I should say, there was a resolution, and then an amendment
from that resolution was passed in the form of an omnibus
appropriations bill of the State Department.

In that amendment it says that the United States government, in its
dealings with the Turkish government, should always be bringing up
the issue of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and supporting its
livelihood, and for the reopening of the Halki School of Theology.

Can anyone from the panel please tell us today what exactly is the
U.S. government doing today to uphold this amendment that has been
passed as public law of the United States?

DEMETRIOS: If I may start myself.

I think the U.S. government has been consistently and methodically
and systematically trying for this issue.

I am aware especially of the efforts regarding the opening of the
School of Halki. It has been a continuous effort.

I have been, as I mentioned before, I have been present in
Constantinople at the patriarchate when President Clinton, then
sitting president, visited Turkey for some other things and had a
long talk with President Demirel. And we were expecting him in the
evening when he visited the patriarchate with good news that finally
Halki is opening.

President Clinton came, with Mrs. Clinton and their entourage. He was
really deeply, deeply sad. I mean, he was with a face full of pain.
He said no results, the answer at that time was the timing is not the
proper timing and we don’t have a legal formula.

But that was indicative in the person of the president, and that was
the same situation with President Bush. That was all along the U.S.
ambassadors in Turkey.

Dr. Limberakis mentioned the ambassadors in Turkey went out of their
way in support of a policy of facilitating the enforcement by the
Turkish government of this type of decision that will somehow
eliminate some of the burdens from the patriarchate.

So my impression is that it has been a continuous effort. Now, the
results, it’s another story. But I think the effort have been
consistently made.

PRYOR: Anybody else like to comment on that?

LIMBERAKIS: Well, if I may, to echo what His Eminence stated.

Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman has been in constant
consultation with the archons and the order as we prepare our trips
to Turkey, to Istanbul and to Ankara. It is through the State
Department that we have been able to obtain the meetings with the
ministers, foreign minister, minister of education, and those
particular ministers germane to the issue of religious freedom.

And in our presence, Ambassador Edelman a number of times
specifically made reference to reopening Halki, the property issue,
the succession issue of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the
Ecumenical Patriarch not being a Turkish citizen.

These are items that were brought up in our presence, in front of the
ministers of the governing AKP party this past year, 2004.

So I feel that the United States is making an effort to stand firm on

And lastly, I wish to make reference to what I think is an
embarrassing behavior of the Turkish government when the prime
minister’s office, during our last trip in December, issued a
statement to all government officials to boycott the two banquets
that were held in honor of the Ecumenical Patriarchate Bartholomew in
Istanbul in honor of the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in
Ankara that the ambassador was hosting.

Why? Because the term “ecumenical” was utilized. And that word,
“ecumenical,” so offended the government that a statement had to be
issued by the Turkish prime minister’s office banning government
officials to attend.

That very evening, Consul General David Arnett (ph) in Istanbul gave
a tremendous endorsement of religious freedom, quite frankly using
the word and underscoring the word “ecumenical” — you recall, Your
Eminence, and there are other members who were with us there, Father
— while we were in Istanbul, underscoring the title, which was given
to the church to that position in the 6th century, and the collegial,
first-among-equals that his position holds among the Orthodox faith.

So, to answer your question, I feel that the State Department,
President Bush and President Clinton, have made strong. But you could
lead a horse to water.

PRYOR: I’d just like to add to that also that last May, before
President Bush went to Istanbul for a summit, a NATO summit meeting,
13 members of the Helsinki Commission wrote to him encouraging him to
raise these issues. And he did raise them with Prime Minister
Erdogan. So I agree there has been a consistent effort.

Cardinal McCarrick has to leave us in a little bit, so is there
anybody who has a specific question for him before he must go?

Well, I thank you very much, sir, for being with us today.

MCCARRICK: I thank you. I thought someone would ask what happened to
my arm. It’s from 47 years of blessings.


(UNKNOWN): With all these faith leaders here, you’d think we could
heal it.

MCCARRICK: I’m open to that.

PRYOR: Other questions? Comments?

QUESTION: To all the panelists: Why you have decided to address this
crucial issue now and not in the past? Is there any particular

DEMETRIOS: To whom are you addressing the question?

QUESTION: To all the panelists.

DEMETRIOS: The issue is not addressed not, unless you mean the
specific format, because the specific format is a result of
developments through the time. The issue has been constantly
addressed and constantly in the minds and in the talks for years.

But somehow the event of the discussions of Turkey’s accession to the
European Union somehow facilitated, expedited, accelerated the speed,
therefore caused this type of more intense, let’s say, more specific

Otherwise, that was more or less happening, in a different form, of
course, and different formats.

EDGAR: I was just going to answer your question about why now. I
think Cardinal McCarrick also said it very strongly.

This isn’t the first time this issue has been raised. It’s been
raised many times. It’s been raised in Democratic administrations,
Republican administration, Protestant administration, Roman Catholic
administrations. It cuts across all the theological and political
lines, particularly for those of us in the United States who
understand the situation. And with all the movement toward the
European Union, this is a critical time for this to be raised, not
just with the Helsinki Commission, but with all opportunities that we
have. When we meet with the State Department. When we talk to
Condoleezza Rice and talk to others in the administration urging them
to continue to keep the pressure on.

When I served in Congress, there was never a good time to raise
issues like this. The time was always right to raise issues like
this. And so I think it’s important for us to speak.

And I’d also commend His Eminence for not only leading this effort
today, but we joked when Cardinal McCarrick was here about the
breadth of religious tradition. Our colleague, the rabbi, is here,
the Roman Catholics were here, the Protestants were here, the
historic black church was here, the peace church was here.

I don’t know of too many other partners that could be here. We’ll
continue to talk with our colleagues in the Muslim tradition, Islamic
tradition here in the United States.

There’s uniformity. All of us as Christian traditions are minorities
someplace in the world. And contrary to the popular belief of
Christians, we are a minority on Planet Earth. There are 6.5 billion
people on Planet Earth, and Christians make up less than 30 percent
of that total.

So we are all minorities in some way, and we all respect religious
facilities, religious buildings. My tears flowed when the synagogues
were bombed in Istanbul and in Turkey. I have six grandchildren,
three of whom are Jewish. So I am a historic interfaith family and
think we need to stand up when others tell us to sit down and speak
out on these issues, as creatively and as strongly as we can. We
can’t afford religious prejudice anywhere.

PRYOR: Thank you.


GORE: And I’d like to address the question from the commission’s
perspective as well.

My name’s Chadwick Gore. I’m a staff adviser with the commission.

This is not a new topic, neither the situation with the Greek
Orthodox in Turkey, nor the broader issue of religious liberty in
Turkey writ large. We, as a commission, certainly have addressed
other states within the OSCE and whether they have failed to meet
their OSCE commitments or not.

So this is one of a series since the genesis of the commission in
1976 of the commission looking into whether participating states in
the OSCE have fulfilled their commitments.

I also want the audience to know, and the panel, that this is one of
three briefings that are tied together.

We are addressing the problem of the Greek Orthodox in Turkey today.
There’ll be a subsequent briefing where we look at other faiths
within Turkey and the problems they’re having, both minority faiths
and the Muslims as well, within the foundation law.

And then a third briefing will be held with the government of Turkey.
I spoke with the Turkish embassy yesterday. I invited them to come
here if they wanted to make a statement or if they wanted to take
questions or submit a written statement for the record. They chose
not to, for a variety of reasons. Maybe short notice was one of them.

And so we’ve agreed that they will bring someone, probably from
Ankara, and the government of Turkey will give a briefing that will
both respond to these issues, as well as raise other issues. So at
that briefing we intend to address the entire panoply of human rights
and OSCE commitments within the Turkish framework.

So I wanted everyone to be aware of that and to look forward to those
briefings in the future. And they will be in the not-too- distant
future. They will definitely be announced in the same manner that we
do with press releases and so forth.

PRYOR: Rabbi, did you have a comment also?

SCHNEIER: Yes. There is a comment that I heard the other day from
someone who plays the lottery. And he said, “You want to win in the
lottery, you have to buy a ticket.”

Now, in order to gain admission to the European Union, every state
applying for admission and accession has to assume obligations and
responsibilities in terms of human rights, religious freedom.

And I think what we’re doing here today in a way could be a great
service to the Turkish government, because what we’re saying is, give
the Ecumenical Patriarch — and I made that in my statement — who
enjoys — and Cardinal McCarrick reaffirmed it — you reaffirmed it,
Dr. Edgar — give him the recognition that he enjoys worldwide.

And it has been said that frequently a prophet is not recognized
locally. I think what’s we’re having here. In the presence of His All
Holiness — and that’s why we’re here, Dr. Edgar — for the affection
we have for you, Archbishop Demetrios. You have stood with us on so
many different issues in the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, again,
in support of human rights.

And His All Holiness is really a gem as a leader for what is needed
desperately in this world today of conflict among civilizations. And
therefore having him given the status that he deserves, that’s what
you’re talking about. He can be a formidable ally in terms of
admission of Turkey to the European Union.

PRYOR: Thank you very much.

I see that we’ve been joined by Congressman Pallone.

I’m wondering if you have a statement, sir, that you would like to
make. Invite you to the podium.


PALLONE: There’s only 10 minutes. But I just wanted to say how
important this issue is to me and to so many of my constituents. And,
you know, the idea of continued intrusions and making it more and
more difficult for the patriarchate to exist in Istanbul is, you
know, to me totally outrageous.

And I just appreciate the fact that you’re having this hearing,
because it very important. I mean, I have to say that not only have
my Greek-American constituents expressed concern about what’s
happening, but also others, because, as you know, there are other
Christian leaders, like the Armenian Patriarchate, and they’re all
very concerned about the future if something isn’t done with the
Turkish government.

I know that a lot of people feel that because Turkey wants to join
the European Union now that somehow a lot of these things might
change, and that that’s the leverage that can be used. And I
certainly hope that we’re able to use that leverage.

But I find that what happens oftentimes is that the Turkish
government will say that they’re going to do the right thing when it
comes to human rights issues or protecting religious minorities, and
yet practically speaking it’s not done.

So as much as the advent of a possible accession to the E.U. presents
an opportunity, it doesn’t mean that we don’t have to continue to put
the pressure on, because this is not something that’s just happening
today. This has happened many times.

But it is very important that we here in the United States and other
countries around the world object to it and to see what we can do to
make sure that the patriarchate and its various facilities are
protected and are able to continue to operate.

And I just appreciate again what you’re doing here.

I hate to run in and run out, but that’s the reality around here.
Thank you. Thank you.

PRYOR: Thank you. Thank you. We appreciate your presence here today,

I see that we’ve got a question here.

QUESTION: It seems to me what we are doing today reminds me a little
bit of an English expression: Preaching to the choir.

The question arises as to the effectiveness of our activities. It is
known that Prime Minister Erdogan himself, and also, I think,
Secretary Gul, have made commitments to opening the Halki, and then
they regressed.

It is of course a fact, we all know, that presidents, Democrats and
Republicans alike, made this point, they raised the issue again and
again over the years. And nothing is happening in Turkey.

Are we doing something effective? Is it possible that the Turkish
establishment, that is the hard line of the Turkish establishment,
has prevailed in their internal deliberations, leading them to
conclude that the cost of doing something for the patriarchate, for
adhering to what we call civilized behavior, is not affordable for
the Turkish political establishment, whereas noncompliance brings no
cost at all?

They may look at President Clinton or President Bush or the archons
visiting as simply pro forma movements that is perhaps activities
that U.S. politicians have to do to placate their constituencies.
They come and tell us, “Yes, we raised the issue.” But no compliance
on the part of Turkey bears no costs. Therefore, if they do something
will bear a lot of cost for them, but not complying bears no cost at

And that is the issue that we have raised earlier. We are doing all
these things. What are we doing today, is there any follow-up? What
do we see any effective levers? Can we pull any levers that will
actually bring some results?

Is it possible that the U.S. government will imply or suggest that
there will be some consequences if they do not proceed with effective
compliance with freedom of religion? And those are things that are
written down in black and white, the legal provisions, as we heard
earlier. There is clear noncompliance.

Are there any effective levers? OSCE, can they pull any levers and
say, “You don’t comply? Well, you will be censured. You will not be
acceptable as a member to the OSCE.”

The U.S. government may have levers which I may not know, or the
European Union, something effective, something that will convey the
message to the government, to Mr. Erdogan, that there will be real
costs for noncompliance.

Any suggestions please?

PRYOR: Anybody want to tackle that? What would be the most effective

LIMBERAKIS: If I may comment on that. Two points.

One, I believe with the European Union activity and the recent
activity of Orthodox Christians in the United States, clearly have
been vocal critics of Turkish persecution, but the laity haven’t been
as involved as they are now.

I think we are seeing enhanced activity of the laity in the church to
stand side by side with our hierarchy in fighting for religious
freedom of the spiritual center of Orthodoxy.

And the other analogy I wish to make is similar to that that was told
to me by our legal counselor, who is a maritime attorney. And that
is, when you try to change direction of an ocean liner, it takes the
tugboat gradual turns to slowly turn the direction of the ocean

I think what we are dealing with, in fact, is an ocean liner that’s
had decades and centuries of a condition vis-a-vis the Greek Orthodox
Church and minority, and it’s going to take time to make changes. But
we are having a hearing for the very first time in Washington, D.C.,
in the Capitol, with congressmen and senators. That’s never happened.

We have the European Union opportunity in which the church, not just
as Americans, but as universal members of the Orthodox faith, whether
we are Orthodox from Germany or France or Greece or Britain, will
also come to bear on this process.

So I think there’s enhanced activity, more so than has been in the
past. And I am hopeful, as His Eminence, although we’ve been
discouraged — and we have been discouraged, because in February of
’04 we left high-fiving the foreign ministry in Ankara, thinking
things were going to reopen in Halki by September. And they even said
the 2004-2005 academic year might be the year. We were very
optimistic. But September came and went, and now it was December, and
we were in Ankara again, and we were not given any assurances that
things were going to improve.

But this kind of activity, these hearings, our strategy in Europe,
I’m hopeful, as His Eminence is hopeful, with his leadership, that
perhaps we will make progress.

DEMETRIOS: If I may add something.

It’s a very important question really, the idea of compliance, or
rather how the idea will become a reality, the compliance of the
Turkish government to the demands, the very fair, to say the least,
and just demands.

So there is a difficult issue, how now you proceed and you produce
this type of not only willingness, but actual action in implying

But we have to try. And perhaps the whole process of the accession to
the European Union is perhaps the best opportunity, perhaps — not
perhaps, for sure is the best opportunity.

I don’t know what might be on the part of the State Department
policies. They might have some other things that they can use which
we don’t know. I cannot enter this field of international politics.
That’s very difficult to speak about.

But let me add anecdotally, I hope I’m allowed to use an anecdotal
kind of thing that shows something. Last year we did have in New
York, in the Metropolitan Museum, the big exhibition of the Byzantine
art and iconography, as you remember. It was a terrific event in
which we had 360 exhibits from all over the world, especially the
Balkans and these areas with basically icons and other items.

It was a long process. The title, as you know, was “Byzantium: Faith
and Power.” It was a long process, and during this process the
organizing committee, and especially (inaudible), isolated a very
important icon which was in Turkey. It was an icon painted on both
sides, a very beautiful piece.

Now, they tried to, by all means, through the Turkish agencies to get
the icon. Just impossible. They were desperate. They said, “We need
the icon.”

At some point, just very shortly before the opening of the
exhibition, they said, “You need three months to apply before the
whole thing,” and there was not three months, there was a matter of
two or three weeks.

It so happened that Prime Minister Erdogan came to the States. And we
asked for a meeting on a number of two or three other items. And they
told me, “Can you bring up the subject of the icon?”

So at the end of a meeting with two or three very serious items,
(inaudible) was there, I said, “Mr. Prime Minister, we have an issue
here. There is an icon. We tried by all means through the Turkish
bureaucracy there and the people here in the museum they did
everything possible. Can you please, when you return to Istanbul,
arrange so that the icon will be sent?”

Well, within one week the icon was here, in New York.

Now, this is a compliance, so to say, to a demand, but it looks like
a minimal thing. But, you know, (inaudible) no, it’s impossible, I
try everything, I mean, you know, there are rules here with this and
that. No, it happened. It happened in a very good way.

So there is always a possibility, even for much more serious things,
to be handled in a way that will offer satisfaction to the parties
involved. Of course, we are talking about much more serious and more
much involving issues. However, if there is at some point the will,
and if there is understandable the significance of a gesture, the
gesture will be done. But one has to be convincing about that.

PRYOR: Thank you very much.

Archbishop Demetrios, Rabbi Schneier, Dr. Limberakis, thank you so
much for being with us today. We know how valuable your time is, and
we appreciate very much that you gave us so much of it.

And thank everybody who attended today.

Again, the transcript of this briefing will be on our Web site,, within a day. And this briefing is now closed. Thank you.

DEMETRIOS: Ms. Pryor, you allow me a postscript?

PRYOR: Yes, of course.

DEMETRIOS: Sorry about that.

I would like to say something that has to do with an atmosphere, so
to say, an ambience surrounding this type of problems and events. And
I don’t want to leave this hall with the wrong impression.

The patriarch himself, I mean if you listen to these kind of things,
I don’t know, you might get some idea about what’s going on there.
But one has to be careful about especially what the patriarch does.

The patriarch is in an immediate, very, very cordial, very personal
relationship with the Jewish community, the Muslims, the Armenians.
Every time we were there it was always something. “Can we go?” — we
went, we were there two days after the bombing of the synagogue —
and he said, “Can we go?” after a long — it was a six- hour meeting
in the Synod. He said, “Can we know go and visit the chief rabbi
(inaudible).” He was with all these kind of ruins, et cetera, all the
people there.

Then we were there recently. He said, “Tonight they have the opening
of the rebuilt synagogue.” We were there.

The next day, “You know, this is the end of the Ramadan, let’s go
there.” There were the chief Muslim people there, and they were
extremely cordial toward the patriarch and the patriarch himself.

In and out, always plenty of photographers, journalists, reporters.

I noticed — and let me close with that — I noticed something very
interesting. It was a meeting in UNESCO, in a section of UNESCO in
Istanbul. And here is the mayor of the city, the minister of culture
and education, and other important people from the government, and
the patriarch. And they speak, one after the other.

As each one comes up, the podium was higher on the stage, each one
comes up, the photographers come.

Well, I was sitting there, and just noticing what’s going on. Here
comes the minister of culture and education — there are five
photographers. Comes down. The mayor comes up — there are seven

When the patriarch came up to speak, everybody — I mean, there were
30 photographers there — everybody around there. Everybody says,
“What’s going on?” They say, “Well, the patriarch is going to speak.”

I mean, that shows a relationship which on the human side is very
strong. It’s not hostile, it’s strong. And that emphasize even more
the need of a reciprocal kind of attitude on the part of the
government and the state agencies in order to just be on the level of
the simple people that the journalists are, who are extremely,
extremely friendly and recognizing the patriarch.

So just I thought that we should keep this image on the part of the
patriarch, because in the (inaudible) an outgoing, outstretching,
beyond any imagination effort to reach out to the people and not have
anything that could be in any way an excuse for not reciprocity and
mutuality in responding.

Thank you very much for the postscript.

PRYOR: Thank you for those comments also.

Thank you all for coming. And the briefing is closed.

[Whereupon the briefing ended at 11:53 a.m.]