Dec. 17, 2009
Patriarch Bartholomew Feels "Crucified"
Leader of 300 Million Orthodox Christians Talks to 60 Minutes About The
Hardships He And His Followers Face in Turkey
(CBS) Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the leader of the 300
million-member Orthodox Christian Church, feels "crucified" living in
Turkey under a government he says would like to see his nearly
2,000-year-old Patriarchate die out.
His All Holiness speaks to 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon for a
story to be broadcast this Sunday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Orthodox Christians trace their roots to the earliest days of
Christianity but do not answer to papal authority in Rome. Bartholomew
is, in effect, their pope. The Patriarchate in Istanbul, Turkey, dates
back to Roman times, when the city, then Constantinople, was the center
Since then, history has seen the Patriarch and the part of his church
in Turkey - who are Turkish citizens of Greek ancestry - discriminated
against in their traditional homeland inside what has become modern
Turkey, where 99 percent of the people are Muslim. One and a half
million were expelled in 1923 and another 150,000 left after violent
anti-Christian riots in Istanbul in 1955. A population once numbering
near two million is now around 4,000.
"It is not [a]crime…to be a minority living in Turkey but we are
treated as…second class," Bartholomew tells Simon. "We don't feel that
we enjoy our full rights as Turkish citizens."
Turkish authorities closed churches, monasteries and schools, including
its only orthodox Seminary, the Halki School of Theology. According to
Turkish law the only potential successors to Bartholomew must be
Turkish born and trained at the Halki. "[The Turkish government] would
be happy to see the Patriarchate extinguished or moving abroad, but our
belief is that it will never happen," says Bartholomew.
Leaving Turkey is not an option for Bartholomew, the 270th Patriarch,
because his church was founded there 17 centuries ago.
The area, Anatolia, is where the young Christian Church began to grow
after its beginnings in the Holy Land near Jerusalem. Right in
Istanbul, the Hagia Sophia can be found, the first great church in
Christianity; the four gospels of Matthew, Luke, Mark and John were
written in Turkey; in the Cappadocia region, hundreds of chapels
contain amazing artwork - probably the oldest Christian art in the
world - from the time Rome was ruled by the Caesars. The oldest
continuously operating Christian monastery in the world in the Sinai
desert in Egypt. It contains a letter that Muslims do not refute was
written by the Prophet, Mohammad; the letter instructs Muslims to
protect the Christians in the monastery and to respect their faith
throughout the world.
Bartholomew finds the letter ironic. "I have visited the prime
minister, many ministers, submitting our problems…asking to help us,"
he tells Simon. But no help has come his way from the Turkish
government, which prides itself on being secular and fears any special
treatment for Orthodox Christians could lead to inroads by other
religions, especially Islam.
The Patriach is determined to hold his ground. "This is the
continuation of Jerusalem and for us an equally holy and sacred land.
We prefer to stay here, even crucified sometimes," says Bartholomew.
Asked by Simon if he feels crucified, His All Holiness replies, "Yes, I
Video Excerpt: Patriarch Bartholomew
The Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, leader of 300 million Orthodox
Christians, feels "crucified" and "second-class " living in Turkey. Bob
Simon reports, this Sunday, Dec. 20, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.
Photo Caption: His All Holiness, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
and 60 Minutes correspondent Bob Simon, visiting the Halki School of
Theolgy, which was closed by Turkish authorities in 1971. (CBS/Magalie
Photo Essay -- The Patriarch: Meet the leader of the world's 300
million Orthodox Christians.