The Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople against Turkey at the ECHR

The Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople against Turkey at the ECHR

By Grégor Puppinck1707401354725

On March 17, 2021, Dimitri Bartholomeos Arhondoni, better known as His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Primate of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and spiritual head of the Orthodox Church, lodged an application against Turkey with the European Court of Human Rights (application no. 15399/21).

The ECLJ has asked the Court for permission to intervene in the proceedings.

At issue: the Turkish government's expropriation of the Greek Orthodox monastery of Saint Spyridon of Halki. Halki is one of the Princes' Islands in the Sea of Marmara, opposite Constantinople, and one of the conservatories of Byzantine Orthodoxy. The island is home to the Halki seminary, where Greek Orthodox clergy were trained, and which has been arbitrarily closed by the Turkish authorities since 1971.

Since the establishment of modern Turkey, the Turkish regime has sought to dispossess the Orthodox churches of their heritage in order to erase their history from Anatolia and "Turkify" this land. One way of doing this is to declare the religious foundations that own and manage church properties "disaffected", thereby transferring their ownership to the State. This is what the Turkish General Directorate of Foundations did in 1967. Since then, the Orthodox Church has been seeking to recover its property. All appeals to the Turkish courts have been rejected, as the Turkish authorities and courts are experts in delaying tactics against minorities. This led the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

The confiscation of the property of Christian churches in Anatolia is unfortunately a common practice, facilitated by the exodus of Christians who have become an ultra-minority in their own country. On several occasions, the European Court has condemned Turkey for violating the property rights of the Greek Orthodox[1] and Armenian[2] Churches.

As recently as November 15, 2022, the ECHR condemned Turkey for expropriating land belonging to a Greek Orthodox foundation, and even more recently, on October 3, 2023, it unanimously condemned Turkey for violating the property rights of the Mor Gabriel Syriac monastery in Midyat (n°13176/13). The ECLJ has intervened on several occasions before the ECHR.

Turkey should return ownership of this monastery to the Orthodox Church, without waiting to be condemned by the Court.


[1] CEDH, Fener Rum Erkek Lisesi Vakfi c. Turquie, n° 34478/97, 9 avril 2007 ; Bozcaada Kimisis Teodoku Rum Ortodoks Kilisesi Vakfi c. Turquie, n° 37639/03, 3 juin 2009 ; Bozcaada Kimisis Teodoku Rum Ortodoks Kilisesi Vakfi c. Turquie n°2, n° 37646/03, 6 janvier 2010.

[2] CEDH, Yedikule Surp Pirgiç Ermeni Hastanesi Vakfi c. Turquie, n° 36165/02, 16 mars 2009 ; Samatya Surp Kevork Ermeni Kilisesi c. Turquie, n° 1480/03, 16 mars 2009.

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