CNN’s “World’s Untold Stories” to examine Greek Orthodox Community in Turkey

Source: Hellenic News of America
New York, NY – CNN International will air a program entitled “Turkey’s Dwindling Greek Christians” as part of its series “World’s Untold Stories.” The program will air on the CNN International Channel (look for it in your local cable, satellite listings) as follows:

* Saturday, Aug. 28: (GMT) 13:30, 20:00 – (EDT, New York) 9:30 a.m., 4:00 p.m.
* Sunday, Aug. 29: (GMT) 12:00, 20:30 – (EDT, New York) 8:00 a.m., 4:30 p.m., 11:00 p.m.
* Monday, Aug. 30: (GMT) 03:00
* Tuesday, Aug. 31: (GMT) 12:30, 17:30 – (EDT, New York) 8:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m.

The following excerpt is taken from the CNN website:

(CNN) – Patriarch Bartholomew is the living embodiment of one of the world’s oldest institutions — the Greek Orthodox Church in Constantinople.

But he could be the last to hold the title in what is modern-day Istanbul, in secular but Muslim majority Turkey.

CNN’s “World’s Untold Stories” examines the dwindling Greek Orthodox community in Turkey and how they are faring.

There has been a patriarch in Constantinople for 14 centuries, ever since it was the capital of Byzantium and the Eastern Roman Empire, ruling over the Eastern Mediterranean and much of the Middle East.

To this day, Orthodox Christians around the world recite prayers to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the “first among equals.” Some describe him as the equivalent of the “pope” for the world’s Orthodox Christians. But Bartholomew, who is now 70, may become the last in a line of some 270 bishops in Constantinople.

The Turkish government refuses to recognize Bartholomew’s title as “Ecumenical Patriarch.”

Twenty-five years ago, the Turkish government shut the seminary where Greek Orthodox clergy traditionally trained. Greeks who do not hold Turkish passports are barred from becoming clerics.

Instead of being the spiritual leader of his faith, Bartholomew has become a symbol of the dwindling community of ethnic Greeks still living in modern-day Istanbul. There are only around 2,000 ethnic Greeks left in Istanbul. The last members of this community are gradually dying out, but they cling tenaciously to the churches and schools their ancestors built in what was once the capital of a Greek empire.

CNN International is a separate channel in the United States. See these links for information or to watch online: or


  1. My questions is:

    If the Greeks are leaving Istanbul, why are the Russians arriving?

    Current statistics put over 20,000 Orthodox Russians living in Turkey, which is almost 10 times the number of Greeks – and aren’t these under the Ecumenical Patriarch also?

  2. John: technically, yes. Notice that the fact the Ecumenical Patriarch is ethnically Greek is an accident of history. He could easily be Russian.

    The Russians are arriving in Turkey because they are interested in getting along and doing business with the folks next door. The EU and Turkey have been having their off-again-on-again situtation. Turkey and Greece are having the tensions over Cyprus. Who knows, maybe the Russians will be able to create non-ethnocentric churches in Turkey, certainly under the Greeks it hasn’t happened.

  3. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    Further, I would bet that the reasons you have seen the thawing by the Turks towards the Phanar recently is because of Russia, not the Phanar of New York.

  4. The CNN story says, “To this day, Orthodox Christians around the world recite prayers to the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the ‘first among equals.'” We do not say prayers TO the Ecumenical Patriarch, we say prayers FOR the Ecumenical Patriarch. I can’t believe they wrote that.

  5. Will, they wrote it almost certainly because that’s what someone in a robe told them. I recall posts about his various minions during the EP’s visit to the US some years ago that put up signs in some towns ‘Blessed is He that Comes in the Name ..” and so on. Talk about believing his own PR.

  6. Hi Everyone,

    Russian/Turkish relations are expanding because trade between the two countries is EXPLODING. I think Russia is going to be Turkey’s largest trading partner within a couple years…if I remember the statistics correctly.

    In conjunction with that, we should expect Russian influence within Turkey to rise dramatically. hence the recent changes in relationship between Moscow and Istanbul.

    I found this article on the website of the Moscow patriarchate recently..thought the account it gave of how the recent service at the Sumela Monastery came about was very interesting…

    Divine Liturgy celebrated in Sumela Monastery for the first time in decades

    A group of several thousand believers from Russia and other countries of the near abroad came to the old Monastery of the Panagia Sumela near Trabzon, Turkey, on August 15, 2010, to attend the liturgy celebrated by Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople in this unique cultural monument and great Christian shrine which was opened for celebrations for the first time since 1922.

    It was already the fourth pilgrimage made under the project for reviving the old tradition of Russian pilgrimages to holy places in Asia Minor.
    The project was negotiated by Patriarchs Kirill and Bartholomew during the Patriarch Kirill’s official visit to the Church of Constantinople in July 2009 and approved by Turkey’s Prime Minister R. T. Erdogan.

    Patriarch Bartholomew, in his address to the worshippers standing both in the monastery yard, which could accommodate only about 500 people, and outside where large plasma screens were installed, said he was glad that His Holiness Patriarch Kirill of Moscow and All Russia could participate in the historic liturgy in the Monastery of the Panagia Sumela through his representative, Bishop Tikhon of Podolsk and his fellow-travellers, and expressed hope that divine services would continue to be celebrated in that old monastery with the participation of His Holiness Kirill and other hierarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church. Bishop Tikhon of Podolsk, who led the pilgrims, thanked the Turkish authorities for having responded to requests from the Orthodox to open the old monastery for worship. ‘Pilgrimage is a component of the spiritual life of every Christian. Guided by the example of the Lord Who with His Most Holy Mother made annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem, we have come here to venerate this holy place. We thank His Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and His Holiness Patriarch Kirill who have opened an opportunity for us to come to this source of God’s grace’.

    The Monastery of the Panagia Sumela is believed to be founded by St. Barnabas in the late 4th-early 5th centuries. Since the late 4th century the miracle-working Icon of Our Lady the Panagia Sumela has been kept in the monastery. According to tradition, it was made by St. Luke. The monastery is renowned for its unique frescoes depicting episodes from the life of the Mother of God and Jesus Christ as well as Old Testament stories, such as the Creation, the creation of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from Eden.

    After the flourishing periods in the 13th-15th and 18th-19th centuries, the monastery became desolate in the 20th century. Pilgrimages to this holy place were resumed in 2007.

    DECR Communication Service


    Best Regards,

  7. Maybe, I’m ignored of 19 century history but I think Russia was interested in getting rid of the Ottoman Turks and European Countries like England supported the Ottoman’s to stopped Russia expanding, maybe I’m wrong on this. Anyway, a commerical relationship explains relations between Russians and Turks today.

  8. Cynthia,

    A warm water port was the dream of Czars going back to the time of Peter the Great. Constantinople was always the prize – but the Russians were frustrated by the English propping up the “sick man of Europe” – Ottoman Turkey.

    Keep in mind that the Russians celebrated their victories over the Muslims by placing an upside down crescent at the bottom of the crosses atop many of their churches. When I was there in 97, it seemed that every church had one of those.

    Today, it seems like commerce is the driving force. The report I had read in a Turkish paper indicated Russia would soon be Turkey’s number one trading partner.

    So, just like the Germans took over much of Russia’s economy in the 90’s, the Russians may end up ruling C’nople without firing a shot.

    Ironic eh?

    Best Regards,

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