US Congress Commission to adopt harsh resolution on Turkey
by Apostolis Zoupaniotis
Washington, Mar 16 (CNA) - The Helsinki Commission of the US Congress, which deals with the protection of human rights and monitors the implementation of the Helsinki agreements, is expected to issue a harsh resolution on Turkey today, for undermining the activity of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
According to the draft resolution, the Commission deplores Turkey for violating the religious rights of the Ecumenical Patriarch with the non-recognition of his ecumenical status, the confiscation of 75% of his assets and the prevention of the reopening of the Chalki seminary.
The resolution calls on Turkey, if it wants to be a European country, to comply with the international treaties it signed on religious freedoms.
During the two-hour hearing before the Commission, many religious personalities and lawyers spoke but the Turkish Embassy refused to send a representative to answer to the charges. However, it promised that an official would be coming from Turkey to speak before the Commission.
The Commission was addressed by Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarch Archbishop Demetrios, Rabbi Arthur Schneier, President of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, Catholic Archbishop of Washington Anthony Limberakis, and National Commander Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate the Order of St. Andrew Bob Edgar.
Co-President of the Commission Congresswoman Prior said the members briefed US President George Bush about these issue before his visit to Ankara and that he promised he would raise the matter with the Turkish government.
The speakers said that out of the 8,000 institutions and assets owned by the Patriarchate before 1970, in 1999 the number dropped to 2,000 and is today only 500. They also pointed out that Turkey does not even make the effort to present excuses any more.