WCC, CEC Declare Joint Support Ecumenical Patriarchate

In lieu of the “new pressures and difficulties being brought upon the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” the World Council of Churches (WCC) and the Conference of European Churches (CEC) released a statement to express their solidarity to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, and to the dwindling Christian community in Turkey.

“On behalf of the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches, we write to express our profound sorrow at the reports we are receiving of new pressures and difficulties being brought upon the Ecumenical Patriarchate,” the Dec. 10 statement read.

While Christians have historically received widespread persecution in the majority-Muslim nation, tensions escalated in recent weeks because of the sensitivities involved in Turkey’s European Union bid.

Last week, the Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians, was single-handedly criticized because of his title as the “Ecumenical” or “universal” patriarch. According to various news sources, Turkey has rejected the term “ecumenical” to describe Bartholomew because of the international implication of the title; the predominantly Muslim nation long since held that Bartholomew is merely the spiritual leader of Istanbul’s dwindling Orthodox community of less than 3,000.

“We are pained to read of the public criticisms and attacks being made upon yourself and upon the Christian community in Turkey. Such hostility must be very hard to bear, with the added sense of isolation that it brings,” the letter noted.

The statement, signed by Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia, General Secretary of WCC, and the Rev. Dr Keith Clements, General Secretary of CEC, also expressed support for the “accession of Turkey to the European Union.”

“The days in the immediate future are, we realize, beset with many sensitivities in the political sphere especially as regards the question of the accession of Turkey to the European Union. This makes it even more important, we believe, that your own patient and determined advocacy of the accession of Turkey to the EU should be recognized and reaffirmed by all who have at heart the future of Turkey, and the peaceful development of Europe and the wider world,” the statement read.

"Whatever may be the outcomes of the forthcoming political negotiations on 17 December", the letter concludes, "we in the WCC and CEC will follow the process with the greatest attention, and will seek to accompany the Ecumenical Patriarchate in reflection upon our common Christian responsibility for the future of Europe".

The following is the full text of the statement, as released by the WCC:

Letter to His All Holiness Bartholomew I, Ecumenical Patriarch


Your All Holiness,

At this time of Advent, as we prepare to celebrate the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, the light of the world, we greet you in the name of him who says, "In the world you face persecution. But take courage: I have overcome the world" (John 16.33).

On behalf of the World Council of Churches and the Conference of European Churches, we write to express our profound sorrow at the reports we are receiving of new pressures and difficulties being brought upon the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We are pained to read of the public criticisms and attacks being made upon yourself and upon the Christian community in Turkey. Such hostility must be very hard to bear, with the added sense of isolation that it brings. Our own visits to you in Istanbul in April and May this year vividly reminded us of the need to sustain with you the reality of our fellowship in Christ: "When one member suffers, all suffer together with it."

We wish Your All Holiness, and all our brothers and sisters under your leadership throughout the world, to know of our solidarity with you in thought and prayer at this difficult time. The days in the immediate future are, we realise, beset with many sensitivities in the political sphere especially as regards the question of the accession of Turkey to the European Union. This makes it even more important, we believe, that your own patient and determined advocacy of the accession of Turkey to the EU should be recognised and reaffirmed by all who have at heart the future of Turkey, and the peaceful development of Europe and the wider world. For those of us who have long known you, this is but one more example of the integrity you have shown as a leader in the worldwide Orthodox Church and in the ecumenical movement where you have unceasingly proclaimed the cause of dialogue, reconciliation and peace in the world at large no less than the calling to Christian unity. There are many throughout the world who deeply appreciate your most recent emphasis on this, in your message recorded for the first International Day of Prayer for Peace on 21 September this year.

Whatever may be outcomes of the forthcoming political negotiations on 17 December, we in the WCC and CEC will follow the process with the greatest attention, and will seek to accompany the Ecumenical Patriarchate in reflection upon our common Christian responsibility for the future of Europe. Meanwhile, if it would prove helpful we shall be very glad if a representative each of WCC and CEC could visit the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the next few days, both as a further token of our solidarity with you and in order to gain further information on your situation and to receive your insights on the issues before us.

Please accept then, Your All Holiness, the assurances of our earnest prayers for God’s sustaining grace and guidance in the coming days, and our hopes for the strengthening of our common endeavours for peace and reconciliation.

Yours in Christ,
Rev. Dr Samuel Kobia
General Secretary
World Council of Churches Rev. Dr Keith Clements
General Secretary
Conference of European Churches