Decree Orders Full Restitution of Ecclesiastical Assets in Mardin

ICC Note: A decree has ordered that 30 ecclesiastical assets belonging to the Syriac Orthodox Church in Mardin be returned to the church. The objects were placed under the control of Turkish public institutions in 2017.  The current status of the church property is unclear. (The total number of assets seized is actually higher, as the authorities started appropriating properties in 2016.) Church facilities in Turkey are heavily monitored and restricted. According to a recent report, there are over 150 congregations in Turkey but only 10 official church buildings.

02/13/2018 Turkey (Fides) –  A decree has ordered the full restitution of ecclesiastical assets scattered in the Mardin region to the Syriac Orthodox Church and that in 2017 had been placed under the control of Turkish public institutions.

The attorney of the Foundation of the Monastery of Mor Gabriel, announced that the matter was the subject of a decree. 30 ecclesiastical assets will be returned to the foundations and to the organisms linked to the Syriac-Orthodox Church which previously belonged to them. Among the assets that will definitively be returned to the control of the Syriac Orthodox Church there are the three monasteries of Mor Melki, Mor Yakup and Mor Dimet.

The shadow of a possible expropriation of the Syriac Orthodox church assets by the Turkish apparatuses had appeared in the 2016/2017 biennium, when those assets were placed under the direct control of the Undersecretariat for the Treasury, and seemed they were soon to be entrusted to the management of the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet, a body linked directly to the Prime Minister). The operation was carried out at the end of the process with which Mardin had been transformed into a metropolitan municipality, and the consequent administrative reorganization of the territory had transformed the surrounding villages into as many neighborhoods in the metropolitan area. Faced with these developments, the Mor Gabriel Foundation, which runs the most important Syriac Orthodox monastery on Turkish land (see photo), in June 2017 had presented a petition to the civil court of Mardin to ask to stop the process of expropriation of Syriac-Orthodox churches, monasteries and cemeteries and their transfer under the direct control of Turkish governmental bodies.

Turkey had denied any intention to expropriate 50 Christian churches and monasteries scattered around Mardin. The office of the governor of Mardin had declared to the Turkish media that the ownership and administrative management of the churches and monasteries in question still had to be legally defined, and in the meantime the ecclesiastical property will still be registered at the Treasury and will not end up under the control of Diyanet

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