Turkey Consults Christians on Constitution
05 Mar 2012 By Catholic News Service
ROME (CNS) — A Catholic archbishop welcomed
a Turkish government decision to consult Christian
leaders on a new constitution.
“Turkey is genuinely opening up, although
Europe should understand a mentality and history can’t
change overnight,” said Archbishop Ruggero Franceschini
of Izmir, president of the Turkish bishops’ conference.
“We’re glad this hearing is taking place, since it
points in the right direction toward respecting and
acknowledging the rights of minorities,” he told the Italian
bishops’ news agency, SIR.
In mid-February, Ecumenical Patriarch
Bartholomew I, Turkey’s top Orthodox leader, made his
first appearance before a parliamentary commission
preparing the constitutional reforms.
The Ecumenical Patriarchate’s spokesman,
Orthodox Father Dositheos Anagnostopoulos, said that in
his testimony, Patriarch Bartholomew had drawn attention
to “sufferings and hardships” by small religious groups
and called for minority citizens to be allowed access to
public funds and offices.
Patriarch Bartholomew was the first non-Muslim
religious leader to be consulted on the constitutional
reforms, which were backed in a September 2010
referendum. Leaders of Turkey’s Syriac, Armenian and
Jewish minorities, which are officially recognized by the
government, are also expected to testify before the
The country’s 32,000-member Catholic Church,
which co-hosted a visit by Pope Benedict XVI in 2006, is
not recognized as a religious minority.
Archbishop Franceschini told SIR that he was
disappointed a Catholic representative had not also been
called to testify, but he had counted on the Istanbul-based
patriarch to highlight “expectations of religious
Turkey has been negotiating accession to the
European Union since 2005 but has faced opposition to its
membership bid because of complaints from ethnic and
religious minorities about being denied equal rights in the
predominantly Muslim country.
In August, church leaders welcomed a pledge by
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to return
properties and institutions confiscated from certain
historic Christian denominations. That move is also not
expected to affect Catholics.
Tags: Middle East Christians Middle East Christian-Muslim relations Turkey