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Former Turkish mayor attempts to obstruct meeting of Ecumenical Patriarchate's Holy Synod

Istanbul, Turkey

A former Turkish mayor has tried to prevent the meeting of the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, claiming that the August 27-29th meeting violates the Lausanne Treaty, according to a report published in the Turkish Daily News. This has sparked fierce debates every year in the country, since the meetings convened in 2004 for the first time since 1923, with non-Turkish members. In its defense, the Ecumenical Patriarchate states that because the Turkish government refuses to recognize them as a "legal identity," then it does not have the legal status to be bound by the treaty and therefore has the right to invite any members to the Holy Synod meeting.

Tahsin Salihoglu, the former mayor of Istanbul's Avcilar district, petitioned the Istanbul Governor's office and demanded a halt to the Holy Synod meeting, claiming the Ecumenical Patriarchate has violated the 1923 Lausanne Treaty as it contained non-Turkish members.

According to the Lausanne Treaty, the founding accord of modern Turkey, all the members of the Holy Synod have to be Turkish, Salihoglu said. If foreign members of the assembly attend the meeting in Istanbul, the Lausanne Treaty would be violated, he added.

In response to this situation, National Commander Anthony J. Limberakis, stated, "This is another case of the Turkish government interfering in the administrative and liturgical life of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In fact, this adversely affects the religious freedom of all American and European Orthodox Christians because this intolerant initiative limits the participation of the American and European hierarchs who participate as appointed members of the Holy and Sacred Synod. This includes Archbishop Demetrios of America and other members of the Holy Eparchial Synod. When will the intimidation stop?"

The lack of a legal identity continues to be a major source of problems for the Ecumenical Patriarchate including non-recognition of its ownership rights and the non-issuance of residence and work permits for non-Turkish hierarchs, clergy, and staff who are essential to the continuity and functioning of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

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