The Deputy Governor of Pennsylvania and candidate -at the time- Senator, John Fetterman, made last month a strong and clear statement regarding religious freedoms in Turkey, the treatment of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but also the neighboring country’s behavior towards the “Greek Orthodox Church”, supporting the positions of the Greek-American community to the utmost.
The great winner of the midterm elections in Pennsylvania did not hesitate to openly take a stand, describing Turkey as a “region of concern” for him and expressing his concern about the confiscation of thousands of properties of the Ecumenical Patriarchate by Turkey, the conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, the closure of the Halki Seminary, but also Ankara’s practice of intervening in the Ecumenical Patriarchal succession.
From Pennsylvania to… the Phanar
John Fetterman fully supported the demands of the Greek-American community, while his opponent throughout the Pennsylvania election race was Mehmet Oz, a well-known TV star, who has dual -American and Turkish- citizenship served in the Turkish army and maintains friendly relations with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Taking into account the high support of the former US President, Donald Trump in the person of the candidate Republican Senator, Mehmet Oz, but also the close ties of the former US President with the Turkish President, yesterday’s victory of John Fetterman, combined with his full alignment with the positions of the Greek community, adds another philhellene to the new Congress of the United States – and even Senator – but also a new dimension to the Fetterman-Oz election conflict, in which, in addition to the Pennsylvania agenda, the rights of the Greek Orthodox in Turkey were met.
In detail, John Fetterman’s statement:
“The US Constitution guarantees everyone the right to religious freedom. It is an American value and a common value to me and to the Greek-American community. One area of particular concern to me is the country of Turkey, where bipartisan American leaders in Washington found that restrictions on religious freedom have been placed on the spiritual head of the Greek Orthodox Church and on more than 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.
During his leadership, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew led the interfaith dialogue, urging Muslim leaders to condemn the September 11 attack on America as an anti-religious act. For his contribution to religious understanding and peace, Congress gave him the Congressional Gold Medal. And he has been recognized for his remarkable leadership in the fight against climate change.
As a US Senator, I will support the Greek Orthodox’s struggle for religious freedom in Turkey. I firmly believe that Turkey must protect the religious freedoms of the Greek Orthodox Church, recognize Bartholomew as Ecumenical Patriarch and not interfere in the election of his successor, return the confiscated property to the church, turn Hagia Sophia back into a museum and reopen the Halki seminary.”