Legislation to urge the Government of Turkey to respect the rights and freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has introduced legislation to urge the Government of Turkey to respect the rights and freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Christian Church, in accordance with criteria necessary to join the European Union. The Ecumenical Patriarch is the leading figure in the Orthodox Church and has suffered from discriminatory treatment from the Turkish government.
"For a government to treat a revered religious institution and leader in such a discriminatory manner is an affront to human and religious rights and shows disrespect to the hundreds of millions of Orthodox Christians," said Senator Menendez. "There must be fairness and freedom when it comes to the Turkish government's treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. As Turkey appeals to the European Union for membership, I would expect its treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to be a prime topic that must be addressed."
Senator Menendez's resolution, which is co-sponsored by Sens. Olympia Snowe (R-ME), Joseph Biden (D-DE) and Benjamin Cardin (D-MA), urges the Government of Turkey to respect the rights and religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Orthodox Christian Church. It calls on the Turkish government to immediately:
• recognize the right to the title of Ecumenical Patriarch;
• grant the Ecumenical Patriarch appropriate international recognition and ecclesiastic succession;
• grant the Ecumenical Patriarch the right to train clergy of all nationalities, not just Turkish nationals; and
• respect property rights and human rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The Government of Turkey has sought membership in the European Union and maintains strong bilateral relations with the United States Government. The accession of Turkey to the European Union will depend on its adherence to the Copenhagen criteria that require candidate countries to have stable governmental institutions that guarantee human rights and that respect and protect minorities, including religious minorities such as Orthodox Christians.