Showing posts with label Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. Show all posts

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Attaturk & Architecture

A number of watchdog Christian news sources, including Italy's AsiaNews are reporting the European Court of Human Rights "ruled that Turkey must return the former Greek Orphanage on Büyükada Island, the largest of the Princes’ Islands, back to Fener Greek Patriarchate. This concludes the long legal case between the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and Turkish authorities." (See an Armenian site for photo and good summary.)

Travelers take boats to these pretty islands, which are increasingly dotted with nice hotels - prime real estate. Today's Zaman, a Turkish newspaper that favors minority interests in Turkey, points out the orphanage is one of the largest wooden buildings in the world and was illegally confiscated.

When CBS' 60 Minutes profiled the Patriarchate recently, they filmed the Patriarch at Büyükada. The legal status of many other properties that Christians lost, when forced from Turkey, cannot be questioned, thanks to the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923.

Also on the subject of architecture, consider Aghia Sofia, the magnificent church in Istanbul that became a mosque and now is a Turkish government museum. The above photo shows a stone piece from Aghia Sofia embedded into the facade of the Chicago Tribune Tower -- just after the Treaty of Lausanne was signed. The Tower was completed in 1925 following an international competition in 1922, just when Christian refugees were fleeing Turkey. The contest: design the most beautiful office building in the world. Today, Chicago's Tribune Tower still houses a decayed-but-great newspaper and remains dotted with fascinating artifacts from the world's monumental architecture.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Istanbul Vandals v. Xtians

Vandals in recent days shattered and knocked over headstones in a Greek cemetery in Istanbul, according to an Ecumenical Patriarchate email. Many of those buried had died in the past decade after spending their last days at the nearby Balouki nursing home. The well-heeled, largely American patrons of the Patriarchate, the "archons," are now building a tall fence around the cemetery and restoring the headstones, which look surprisingly flimsy in photos compared to the granite or limestone versions you see in American cemeteries. While this is no doubt due in part to local tradition, and the destitute status of isolated Greek Christians who died in Istanbul, one has to ask why the patriarchate and its patrons have not done more to secure this cemetery and another that was the scene of even more disgusting vandalism, knowing that the Turkish authorities cannot provide constant police protection of graves. Insiders always tell me the patriarchate has more money than we think. Politics aside, the situation of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate is pathetic and I increasingly feel that anything one can do is too little, too late.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Obama Met Patriarch

President Obama met with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul Monday, but all the interested parties got Thursday was this lousy press release and Web link . Old news won't get covered -- but really glad we spend on Internet ministries. It appears foolish to put the news out late and without any explanation of the obvious: why wasn't the Patriarch also a part of publicized meetings with other local Christian leaders? Why did Obama and the Patriarch meet at a hotel and not at the Patriarchate? The Patriarchate "Fener" neighborhood is just a taxi ride from the Conrad Hilton Istanbul. The photo in the link above is of the president speaking; the release is mostly about what the Patriarch said. Diplomacy is one thing, but Byzantine secrecy is just so ... Byzantine.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Patriarchal Blessing

ISTANBUL, Turkey -- With the Epiphany feast upon us, after a blessing of waters liturgy at the church of St. George at the Patriarchate here in Istanbul, I was granted an “akroasi” (meeting for a blessing) with His All Holiness Patriarch Bartholomew Monday morning. I was last to be seen; before me were mostly Greeks from Greece and men who seemed to get preferential treatment. When I finally saw the patriarch, he commented that that as a journalist, I have an important job because I can influence people. However, before seeing him, I was warned not to conduct an interview, which needs more than two weeks approval. Seeing the patriarch at all took quite a bit of waiting and confusion, and a stall-tactic soup consisting of white beans with lemon and spicy dry red pepper on the side. After all that, I learned several things: the Patriarch is indeed a kind man. He administers with Post-its. He has blue eyes. His ibriks for demitasse coffee are very old copper with intricate bronze handles. This may not make me a better Orthodox Christian, but it is what it is, and the patriarchate deserves support given longstanding, and current, oppression by the Turkish government. (On the main shopping street, the Catholics have a church where they can conduct services in Turkish and English. There's a Greek Orthodox Church at the top of the same street, at Taksim Square, but the authorities have only allowed two Greek Orthodox churches to remain open, and they aren't conveniently located.) Anyway, the Patriarch offered me chocolates, and gave me a gold-tone cross stamped on the back with the patriarchate name, a small book in Greek with a CD explaining the church of St. George in the Fener or “Phanar” district and the Church of Chora, which I visited last week. Thought the gifts were very generous; and he took down our Asia Minor [Turkey] family name and village name when I asked if they have a map of the Nicea region. I asked if he had any questions for me; his response was that I am young. I asked him how we know Gods will, but I don’t remember the answer – except that we have to listen and things take time. Other tidbits: he also offered to me that his baptized name was Demetrios – and he told me twice that I had to come back Wednesday, when he throws a cross into the nearby inlet that leads to the Bosphorus. And then, it was all over. A newly ordained deacon who hails from northern Indiana took two photographs, and the Patriarch put on a long black street coat and headed, with a driver, to the hospital to visit his sister. It was pouring rain all day Monday, so the light wasn't good for photos. You can see here the facade of the St. George church at the Patriarchate, with the administrative offices to the right. The brown wood is typical of old Istanbul structures including both hotels where I stayed. Surrounded by the sea, anything else deteriorates. Which begs the question, why would the builders of St. Stephen of the Bulgars use iron?

Istanbullda Birkadin


That means I'm a woman in Istanbul. And what an amazing city Istanbul is! There is no way I can see the modern art museum, and Topkapi might fall off the list too. On Monday, after visiting the Phanar, which is nearly on the water and a 10-minute cab ride from anything important to tourists, I wandered in the neighborhood. Lots of very old, brick-and-wood buildings being restored, but others very run down. I was told the "Fener" neighborhood is the most religiously conservative neighborhood in Istanbul; nearly every woman sported a headscarf and long coat over long dress. Fascinating too: a man selling garlic from a makeshift cart, hawking to second and third-story customers. From there, I hopped into a cab with two English speakers headed to Taksim Square -- they wouldn't let me pay -- and capped all this off with a walk from Taksim through the shopping street, Istiklal Caddesi (second photo here). The boys would love because a small red trolley runs up and down the street at very long intervals. I bought lots of little, Turkish things today: rose water (for a face toner or food flavoring), some antique post cards and Turkish music. (Books are very expensive here $50+) Huge New Year sales here. I found hand-knit baby booties from a villager selling on the street.
Had dinner by myself, wishing I had someone to talk to. But traveling alone means you meet more people, and experience more instead of concentrating on your companion. I asked in stores twice about places to eat, and landed in a bustling mezze taverna -- a "meyhane" -- the kind of place where locals have small portions of pan-seared fish, pickled greens that look like miniature olives leaves, spicy puree of tomato and raw onion, with raki diluted in water. It was perfect.