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WikiLeaks: 2009-04-15: 09ISTANBUL140: Ecumenical Patriarchate Considers Turks Tolerant of Christians

by WikiLeaks. 09ISTANBUL140: April 15, 2009.

Posted: Monday, December 30, 2013 at 07:25 PM UT


Viewing cable 09ISTANBUL140, ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE CONSIDERS TURKS TOLERANT

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Reference ID Created Classification Origin
09ISTANBUL140 2009-04-15 15:32 CONFIDENTIAL Consulate Istanbul
VZCZCXRO0540
PP RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHIT #0140/01 1051532
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 151532Z APR 09
FM AMCONSUL ISTANBUL
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8912
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUFOADA/JAC MOLESWORTH RAF MOLESWORTH UK PRIORITY
RHMFISS/JOINT STAFF WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEKJCS/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 ISTANBUL 000140 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/12/2019 
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM TU GR OSCE
SUBJECT: ECUMENICAL PATRIARCHATE CONSIDERS TURKS TOLERANT 
OF CHRISTIANS 
 
REF: 08 ISTANBUL 595 
 
Classified By: Consul General Sharon A. Wiener for reasons 1.4 (b) and 
(d). 
 
1. (C) Summary. During an April 10th meeting, the Ecumenical 
Patriarchate's press relations representative, Father 
Dositheos, explained the continuing problems the Patriarchate 
faces to Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) and Representative 
Chris Carney (D-PA).  The list of challenges -- including the 
need to open Halki Seminary, the Patriarchate's lack of legal 
personality, and the GOT's refusal to use the term 
"ecumenical" with reference to the patriarchate -- has 
remained the same for decades. Dositheos also claimed the 
Turkish public is far more tolerant of Christians and 
non-Muslim institutions than are most Turkish elected 
officials and bureaucrats. End Summary. 
 
--------------------------------------------- 
Same Challenges: Halki, Legality, Ecumenicity 
--------------------------------------------- 
 
2. (C) Father Dositheos commended President Obama for his 
"brave remarks" to the Turkish Parliament on April 6. It was 
the first time, he said, that any leader dared to mention the 
issue of the Halki Seminary in such a setting.  While other 
presidents and U.S. officials have spent many years working 
to open Halki, Dositheos hopes Obama's bravery will make a 
difference. The opening of Halki is of great importance to 
the Orthodox world because no other seminary provided such an 
ecumenical approach to training Orthodox priests for the 
future. Dositheos contended that the seminaries in Athens and 
Thessaloniki are rather conservative and not as open to 
different views of Orthodoxy.  Ultimately, he said, the 
Patriarchate would like to see Halki opened in the same 
format as it had been prior to its closure in 1971. Many 
people are confused about how Halki would be set up upon 
reopening, and he complained that the European Union 
representatives believed that the Patriarchate would open 
Halki as a private Greek institution. This is not the case, 
Dositheos emphatically said. Instead, it would return to 
being a Turkish institution under the oversight of both the 
Board for Higher Education (YOK) and the Patriarchate. 
 
3. (SBU) Dositheos also touched upon the challenges of 
operating as an institution without a legal personality. 
Specifically, the Ecumenical Patriarchate cannot have its own 
bank account or own its own property. Additionally, the GOT 
and state institutions view the Ecumenical Patriarch as the 
Patriarchate's representative, and "hassle" him whenever 
there is a problem, rather than contact his appointed legal 
representatives. 
 
4. (SBU) Finally, Dositheos said he personally finds the 
GOT's refusal to use the term "ecumenical" when referring to 
the Patriarchate as offensive and confusing. (Note: The 
Ecumenical Patriarch himself does not place high importance 
on this issue. Ref A.) The Patriarchate refers to itself as 
the Greek Patriarchate of Fener in all of its correspondence 
with the GOT, while externally it is known as the Ecumenical 
Patriarchate. 
 
----------------------------------------- 
Turkey will never be like the Middle East 
----------------------------------------- 
 
5. (C) In response to a question, Father Dositheos speculated 
the Orthodox Church might have been able to prevent its 
current suffocated position if it had actively worked to 
convert the Turkic ppulation before the Ottoman invasion 
centuries ago.  He also noted, however, that Turkey was very 
different from other Islamic countries. Most of the Turkish 
people, especially those in the East of Turkey, have long 
"social memories" that make them very tolerant of Christians, 
"Likely because they know that their own family was probably 
Assyrian, Armenian, or Greek Christian at some point." 
Turkey will never be like the Middle East, Dositheos said. 
"Unfortunately," he lamented, "the official representatives 
of the people are not as tolerant."  Dositheos specifically 
identified MHP and CHP parliamentary representatives, whom he 
considered far less tolerant than their constituents. 
 
6. (C) Comment: Dositheos' comments put context to a paradox 
that is clear to many who work with human rights issues in 
Turkey. The state's suspicion of "foreign" (non-Muslim) 
elements in Turkish society, as well as some GOT officials' 
 
ISTANBUL 00000140  002 OF 002 
 
 
use of "foreign" scapegoats, oddly coexists with a general 
tolerance by the Turkish public. The religiously mixed 
background of many communities in the Southeast makes it 
easier to accept these "foreign" elements as their own. End 
Comment. 
Wiener

 



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