Turkey, Syriacs talk to host Patriarchate

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n_12199_41.jpgISTANBUL- Hürriyet Daily News
 Turkish diplomatic sources express an invitation for dialogue to all religions and sectarian groups as the Syriac community leaders confirm that Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has been engaged in efforts to relocate the Patriarchate back to Turkey. Still, the idea of moving back bring different responses from Syriac groups
 Vercihan Ziflioğlu
vercihan.ziflioglu@hurriyet.com.tr
Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has been engaged in efforts to relocate the Syriac Christian Patriarchate from its current center in Syria back to Turkey, where the institution was abolished in 1930, according to reports.

Some, however, remain skeptical about the potential move. “Relocating the patriarchate back to Turkey would provide no benefits to the Syriac community, as we have no parish left,” Mor Melki Ürek the metropolitan of the eastern province of Adıyaman, told the Hürriyet Daily News.

A large of proportion of Turkey’s Syriac population has already emigrated abroad due to problems in their homeland, according to Ürek.

“We have maintained our silence for too long on every matter. We could not seek our rights. The Syriac Church is a universal church, but Turkey did not appreciate the significance of this invaluable asset. Everyone is responsible for bringing about the current state of our church,” Ürek said.

The Ancient Syriac Orthodox Patriarchate remained in service for six centuries. Initially located in the southern province of Antakya, it moved for some time to the southeastern province of Diyarbakır, and finally to the Deyrulzafaran Monastery in the southeastern province of Mardin. When the Patriarchate was abolished in 1930, its last leader, Patriarch Mor Ignatius III Ilyas Şakır, was also deported.

“The Syriac Patriarchate might decide [to relocate to Turkey] due to the ongoing [political] turmoil in Syria. Turkey might also derive some merit for itself from this. Meetings could be underway, but it is the substance [of the meetings] that matters,” political scientist Professor Doğu Ergil told the Daily News.
Ürek, however, denied any link between the decision to move and the unrest in Syria. “I do not think there is any direct connection because as far as I know, the meetings have been going on for five years,” he said.

“Turkey might be trying to put some new squeeze on the patriarchate because the Syriac Church bears the ecumenical title. As such, the Turkish Republic might be [trying to avoid] a new problem, similar to the example of the Fener Greek Patriarchate. If the invitation truly sprang out of Turkey, that is very important and meaningful,” Ergil said.

The meetings to move the patriarchate back to Turkey have been taking place since 1997, Tuma Çelik, head of the Turkey branch of the European Syriacs’ Union, told the Daily News. The return of the patriarchate back to its homeland bears great spiritual significance, he added.

“If the Turkish Republic wants to take this step, it will not amount to granting a favor. Let us assume the patriarchate moved back to Turkey. Is it not going to be strange for the patriarchate to gain legal status when Syriacs in Turkey are still lacking an official status themselves?” David Vergili, a member of the European Syriacs Union, told the Daily News.

January/25/2012

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