Friday, August 26, 2011

Ricciardone Revises Response to Senate Inquiry on Number of Churches in Turkey

US Ambassador to Turkey Francis Ricciardone, responding to a wave of grassroots outrage and growing Congressional concern, backed away from his most obvious and offensive misrepresentations about Turkey’s destruction of Christian churches, but sparked renewed controversy by artificially inflating the number of currently operating Christian houses of worship, and again using strained euphemisms to help Ankara escape responsibility for its crimes, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

Following broad-based concerns expressed by Armenian-American community and religious leaders, Ricciardone amended his earlier response to Senate Foreign Relations Committee member Robert Menendez (D-NJ), in which he had argued, without any basis in fact, that a majority of Christian churches operating in the territory of present-day Turkey prior to 1915 were still functioning today.

In a correction obtained by the ANCA on August 22, Ricciardone took the “opportunity to clarify the record,” suggesting that of the 2,000 churches there before 1915, they are not all still functioning. He said, “The corrected text should read as follows: Most of the Christian churches functioning prior to 1915 are no longer operating as churches. Christian community contacts in Turkey report that a total of 200-250 churches that date to 1915 and before offer Christian worship services at least once a year. Many churches do not offer services every week due to insufficient clergy or local Christian populations. Some churches of significance operate as museums, others have been converted into mosques or put to other uses. Still others have fallen into disrepair or may have been totally destroyed.”

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