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The Patriarch of Constantinople
Threatened with Imprisonment by the Turkish Government

It has been reported from Ankara that Patriarch Bartholomew, a Turkish citizen, may face up to one year in prison for allegedly breaking local legislation by repeatedly claiming that he is the Patriarch of all Orthodox and recognized as such by the whole Orthodox world. The charge has been made in an Istanbul court by a former member of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, Buzhidar Dzhipov. It follows the verdict of 26 June in the Turkish Appeal Court that the Patriarch has no right to the title ‘ecumenical’, according to Article 219 in the Turkish Criminal Code.

Dzhipov has also submitted another suit connected with the forthcoming meeting of the Constantinople Synod of 27-29 August in Istanbul. He has termed ‘illegal’ the presence in the Synod of six foreign citizens, the Greek Orthodox Metropolitans in Germany, Pittsburgh, Mexico and Central America, and also a bishop from Rhodes and two bishops from Crete. According to Turkish law, only Turkish citizens can be members of the Synod. Dzhipov has also pointed out that according to the 1923 Lausanne Agreement, on which modern Turkey was founded, the Patriarch of Constantinople is merely the leader of the tiny Greek community in Istanbul.

The ecumenical activities and claims of Patriarch Bartholomew have in recent years repeatedly become the subject of controversy not only in Turkey, but also throughout the Orthodox world. Schisms have been caused and the controversy has recently spread most virulently to Mt Athos. Turkish officials have on several occasions stated that they do not recognize the claimed ‘ecumenical status’ of Patriarch Bartholomew and will not countenance the Phanar being turned into an Eastern Vatican.

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