Istanbul: Historic Greek Orphanage to Become Environmental Center Under Patriarch Bartholomew I

Istanbul: Historic Greek Orphanage to Become Environmental Center Under Patriarch Bartholomew I

The Büyükada Greek Orphanage of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate is set to become an international environmental foundation, according to a recent article of the Turkish newspaper todayszaman.com.

A ruling by the European Court of Human Rights in June 2010 stated that the Turkish government should re-register the historic Orthodox orphanage on Büyükada to the İstanbul-based Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate. Following the ECtHR ruling, the orphanage will probably be turned into a global environmental center, according to comments made by the Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I to the Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.

The progress of the transformation of the building has been slow but ongoing. The orphanage has been exposed to harsh weather conditions due to the reported delay.

“It has taken us so long because we have been working very seriously on this project. We have completed our analyses. The foundation will not serve as a religious institution but as a civil society organization working internationally,” said Laki Vingas, representative of non-Muslim foundations at the Prime Ministry’s Directorate General for Foundations (VGM).

The foundation’s name will be the Prinkipos Environmental Foundation, using the Greek word for “prince.” Büyükada, which means “Big Island” in Turkish, is the largest of the nine islands, comprising the Princes’ Islands in the Sea of Marmara, close to İstanbul, explains the newspaper.

After the foundation was registered with the Fener Greek Orthodox Patriarchate in 2010, a board of directors was established comprising Patriarch Bartholomew, Vingas, two prominent businessmen and two Metropolitans of the Patriarchate.

Restoration of the building is expected to be completed in two years, and in the meantime, funding will be sought to support the foundation, which will act independently but under the auspices of the Patriarchate. The environmental foundation is expected to serve all academics working on environmental issues. Regular symposia will be held to establish dialogue between religions on the issue of the environment.

The orphanage, which is said to be Europe’s largest wooden building and, and the second largest in the world, was built in 1898 as a hotel called Prinkipo Palas by a French company. It was bought by the Patriarchate in 1902 and its management was handed over to the Büyükada (Buyuk Island) Greek Orphanage Foundation in 1903. The title deed of the orphanage has been under the control of the VGM since 1997 and was registered as a property of the Büyükada Greek Orphanage Foundation by the directorate through a court order dated 2004, reports the article of todayszaman.com.