Archbishop Demetrios of America raised the issue of religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul during a plenary meeting last week of the first Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, held at the US State Department.
The Archbishop said in his address that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is deprived of a legal status which limits its ability to exercise its duties and ministry and has suffered a massive confiscation of its properties buildings and land.
He also said the Patriarchate only had one theological school, located on the island of Halki, which has been closed by the Turkish authorities for almost 50 years and remains closed, despite the efforts of many people and countries in the West, including repeated appeals by US Presidents.
As the Patriarchal Theological School of Halki remains closed, said the Archbishop, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is deprived of the ability to educate its own clergy, which is clearly a violation of its religious freedom.
The Ministerial convened a broad range of stakeholders from eighty countries, including foreign ministers, ambassadors, international organization representatives, religious leaders, and civil society representatives, to discuss challenges, identify concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination, and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all.