BILL NUMBER: SJR 17 Chapter #142
ADOPTED IN SENATE FEBRUARY 28, 2008 ADOPTED IN ASSEMBLY AUGUST 30, 2008
INTRODUCED BY Senator Kontominas-Alquist
SEPTEMBER 10, 2007 Relative to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST
SJR 17, Kontominas-Alquist. Republic of Turkey: Ecumenical Patriarchate.
This measure would respectfully request the Republic of Turkey to uphold and safeguard religious and human rights, no cease discrimination against the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to grant the Ecumenical Patriarch appropriate ecumenical recognition, ecclesiastic succession, and the right to train clergy of all nationalities, and to respect the property rights, human rights, and religious rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
WHEREAS, The Ecumenical Patriarchate, located in Istanbul, Turkey, is the Sacred See that presides in a spirit of brotherhood over the communion of self-governing churches of the Orthodox Christian world; and
WHEREAS, The See is led by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who is the 269th in direct succession to the Apostle Andrew and holds titular primacy as primus inter pares, meaning “first among equals,” in the community of Orthodox churches worldwide; and
WHEREAS, In 1994, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, along with leaders of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, cosponsored the Conference on Peace and Tolerance, which brought together Christian, Jewish, and Muslim religious leaders for an interfaith dialogue to help end the Balkan conflict and the ethnic conflict in the Caucasus region; and
WHEREAS, In 1997, the Congress of the United State awarded Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew with the Congressional Gold Medal; and
WHEREAS, Following the terrorist attacks on our nation on September 11, 2001, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew gathered a group of international religious leaders to produce the first joint statement with Muslim leaders that condemned the 9/11 attacks as ‘antireligious”; and
WHEREAS, In October 2005, the Ecumenical Patriarch, along with Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders, cosponsored the Conference on Peace and Tolerance II to further promote peace and stability in southeastern Europe, the Caucasus region, and Central Asia via religious leaders’ interfaith dialogue, understanding, and action; and
WHEREAS, The Orthodox Christian Church, in existence for nearly 2,000 years, numbers approximately 300,000,000 members worldwide with more than 2,000,000 members in the United States; and
WHEREAS, Since 1453, the continuing presence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul has been a living testament to the religious coexistence of Christians and Muslims; and
WHEREAS, This religious coexistence is in jeopardy because the Ecumenical Patriarchate is considered by the Turkish government to be the head of the Greek minority in Istanbul exclusively, rather than the head of the Greek orthodox Church; and
WHEREAS, The Turkish government has limited the candidates available to hold the office of Ecumenical Patriarch to only Turkish nationals, and there remain less than 2,000 of the Ecumenical Patriarch’s flock in Turkey today; and
WHEREAS, The Turkish government closed the Theological School on the island of Halki in 1971 and has refused to allow it to reopen, thus impeding training for Orthodox Christian clergy; and
WHEREAS, The Turkish government does not recognize the Ecumenical Patriarchate as a legal entity, and is therefore confiscating all of its properties along with the majority of the property belonging to the Greek community and its parishes;, and imposing high taxes on the Balouki Hospital and Home for the aged, a charity hospital; and
WHEREAS, The European Union, a group of nations with a common goal of promoting peace and the well-being of its peoples, began accession negotiations with Turkey on October 3, 2005; and
WHEREAS, The European Union defined membership criteria for accession at the Copenhagen European Council in 1993, obligating candidate countries to achieve certain levels of reform, including stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, adherence to the rule of law, and respect for and protection of minorities, human rights, and religious rights; and
WHEREAS, The Turkish government’s current treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate is inconsistent with the membership conditions and goals of the European Union; and
WHEREAS, Orthodox Christians in California and throughout the United States stand to lose their spiritual leader because of the deliberate actions of the Turkish government; and
WHEREAS, The Archona of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, a group of laymen who each have been honored with a patriarchal title, or “offikion,” by the Ecumenical Patriarch for their outstanding service to the Orthodox Church will send an American delegation to Turkey to meet with Turkish government officials, as well as the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey, regarding the Turkish government’s treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Senate and the Assembly of the State of California, jointly, That the Legislature of the State of California respectfully requests the Republic of Turkey to: (1) uphold and safeguard religious and human rights without compromise; (2) cease its discrimination against the Ecumenical Patriarchate; (3) grant the Ecumenical Patriarch appropriate ecumenical recognition, ecclesiastic succession, and theright to train clergy of all nationalities; and (4) respect the property rights and religious rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate; and be it further
Resolved, That the Secretary of the Senate transmit copies of this resolution to the President of the United States, the United States Ambassador to the Republic of Turkey, the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey to the United States, and to each Senator and Representative from California in the Congress of the United States.