US prod to Turkey on patriarch

Turkish authorities yesterday received a letter from the US House of Representatives foreign affairs committee calling on Ankara to recognize Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios and respect the religious freedoms of the Istanbul-based Patriarchate. The letter, addressed to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and signed by 42 of the committee’s 50 members, criticized Ankara for interfering in procedures relating to the patriach’s appointment and for seizing Patriarchate property. «We urge you to do everything possible to preserve the Ecumenical Patriarchate and to end all restrictions on its religious freedoms,» the letter said. It also expressed «deep concern» at Ankara’s insistence that the patriarch be a Turkish citizen. «Under present policies there will soon be virtually no Greek-Orthodox Turkish citizens left to qualify as patriarch,» it said. The Patriarchate «will disappear in the foreseeable future unless Turkey changes its policies,» the committee warned, noting that it provided «spiritual and moral guidance for millions of believers.» There was no reaction from Ankara yesterday.