Democratic opening, the legal status of non-muslim religious communities and the Venice Commission
This article deals with a recent opinion adopted by the Venice Commission at its meeting onMarch 12-13 concerning the legal status of non-Muslim religious communities in Turkey and the right of the Orthodox Patriarchate of Istanbul to use the title "ecumenical." On the first issue the Commission points out the difficulties that arise from the lack of legal personality for such communities, especially in matters related to access to courts and property ownership. The Commission urges Turkish authorities to attend to this problem by choosing from the many models of legal personality for religious groups practiced in European countries. On the second point, the Commission observes that the title ecumenical is a spiritual and ecclesiastical matter, and not a legal one. It concludes that unless Turkish authorities actively interfere with the use of such title by the Patriarchate, the simple refusal of the use of this title by Turkish authorities does not amount to a breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.