Dear Christian brothers,
of course I have signed the petition and I think the fact that Greek-Americans are holding THE FIRST HOLY MASS EVER SINCE 1453 is a step in the right way, the only right way to proceed.
It will be a GOOD thing for the Turkish state to give back Hagia Sophia, the Analog to St. Peter´s Cathedral of the Orthodox back to Seat of the Ecoumenical Orthodox Church residing in Instanbul! I want to see Turkey as a respectful, progressive and positive neighboring country to Greece, respecting its neighbors and the human rights of all peoples and religious communities of this world. That is indispensably connected with recognizing the Ecoum. Pathrarch and the natural connection of Hagia Sophia as the Central Church of the Turkish-residing Orthodox Church Seat.
I think tOm-dR gives the most accurate description of the current state of play of political forces in Turkey. Turkey may be more modern in political thinking and slightly more secular than the other Muslim States of the Near East, but it remains nevertheless very far away from being democratic and respecting civil rights enough to be any near a candidacy for EU.
Turkey, everybody among the EU members agree, has to still do a lot of work. And that includes
1) recognizingALL of its own Genocides, (currently three of them known, no current knowledge of more, perhaps so): Sweden has just recongnized three Genocides commited by Turkey, against the Armenians, the Pontian Greeks and the Assyrians
2) granting freedom of religion, i.e. recognizing ALL religions and allowing its people to worship their religion of choice freely. If this basic right of a civilized state is acquired, then it is self-understood, that
- the Priest School of Chalki will be recognized as part of the residing Orthodox
Central Headquarters within Turkey (in Instanbul) and the building immediately
returned to the Ecoumenical Patriarchate to be reopened.
- the Ecoumenical Patriarch will be recognized as the slightly superior Head of the Orthodox World and his seat in the Holy Orthodox Church Headquarters in Constantinople (in respected and recognized Ecoumenical terms), will be respected, not prosecuted and even protected by the Turkish state. The Ecoumenical Patriarch is recognized as the Head of the Orthodox by almost 100% of the countries and governments of this world except Turkey and a few Turkish-affiliated states.
- the Greek Orthodox Churches will be recognized as places of worship of a valid religion for the Turkish state other than Islam and as properties will be returned to the Patriarchate with the Freedom to be used unrestrainedly as the jurisdiction of the Ecoum. Patriarchate decides is best. They will be no more abandoned and previously looted ruins recently called "icon museums", that are left deteriorate and collect money for a state that does not recognize other religions. Certainly, all the other Orthodox churches, i.e. the Armenian or Assyrian or other will be returned to their respective religious communities and will be allowed to be used in the fashion that these communities are free to decide to use and renovate in an appropriate manner.
- Hagia Sophia will be returned to the Ecoumenical Patriarchate as the Head Church and Site of worship of the Orthodox Church. Liturgy will be held in the original fashion, as a recognized world religious community and - of course - in the original language.
When you travel to the United States, or any civilized state of the EU and visit an Armenian church, a Greek church, a Russian Church, an Egyptian Coptic church or even a mosque by any muslim community, the services are heald in the original fashion of the respective religious tradition, be it Coptic Egyptian, or Russian or Arabic, with no repression to hold services in the local language "of the respective sovereign state" where the church may be in.
- once other religions are recognized in Turkey, as well as the freedom to choose your own faith as a Turkish citizen (of any origin, be it Greek, Curdish, Jewish, Armenian or all else), then the other religious communities can even build new churches in Turkey! Let´s take the example of the German Protestant Community in Antalya: There are enough community members living long-term there to have their own priest, who has also come from GErmany to live there and hold services. However as Turkey does not recognize other religions, the Protestant Church Community has the status of a ...club in Turkey. The religious services are just tolerated as a club play and are held in some house blessed by the priest to become a church in Christian terms.
On the other side Turkish Muslim communities in the EU press to build more mosques, while in their own country we Christians can not build a church and the Greek Orthodox churches are ruins called museums.
Turkey may be a sovereign state, as is also Myanmar or Burma, but it can choose what kind of state it wants to be. Turkey has an obligation as well to its own citizens, who wish an EU citizenship, as to the rest of the world, to become a respectful and progressive free state of this world respecting human rights, which include freedom of religion.
It is a characteristic of a civilized state of this world, e.g. Sweden, Germany or the Netherlands, or even Greece, to posess the ripeness of its society to recognize the rights of its polyethnic communities and other groups to exercise their freedom of faith and opinion unrestrainedly without seeing that as a danger to the state, but instead as a strength of a civilized state.
It is the obligation of Turkey to fulfill the above criteria for acquiring membership immediately, not just some day. Also we, should not wait, but demand that all of the criteria are fullfilled as soon as possible, at best today or tomorrow. That way Turkey will show that it has acquired the ripeness of thinking to be included among the civilized states of the world.