A briefing discussion – review of the progress made so far on religious freedoms and human rights on the life of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek Diaspora was held between the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, who visited Phanar with two of his associates.
Special reference was made in a number of positive steps being taken on behalf of the Turkish government with regards to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Institutions of Greek Communities. The Commissioner is particularly interested in such issues and will be back in mid November to meet and discuss these issues with the relevant Turkish authorities. After the meeting, the Commissioner stated:
“This was our third meeting. We met in Strasburg on the occasion of his particularly successful visit there two years ago. We are still monitoring the situation related to the recognition of the religious rights of the Greek Community and the recognition of the ecumenical character of the Orthodox Church. We have noted that progress has been made. Granting citizenship to 12 priests was a good step (on behalf of the Turkish government), but more must be done in order to secure full religious freedom for the Orthodox Church in the country. We hope that the next step will be the reopening of the Theological School of Halki, so that education can begin there again. 39 years have passed since the School was closed and this is really the time that it must be reopened. It must be reopened and this will be beneficial for Turkey and its reputation in other countries.
I am optimistic and I think that the authorities in Ancara recognize that it is for the benefit of the Turkish nation, that it will be underlined that religious freedoms are fully respected in Turkey today.”