St. Helena's Chapel (Istanbul)

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 11th July 2005.

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Photo of Bob Laxton Bob Laxton Labour, Derby North

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

(1) whether his Department plans to lease the churchyard of St. Helena's chapel in Istanbul to a commercial organisation;

(2) what plans his Department has to restore St.Helena's chapel which is part of the British consulate in Istanbul.

Photo of Jack Straw Jack Straw Foreign Secretary

We are considering options for St.Helena's chapel with the Bishop of Gibraltar in Europe and will continue to work for an outcome which meets the needs both of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and The Church.

Does this answer the above question?

Yes7 people think so

No328 people think not

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Rosalind Marshall
Posted on 25 Jul 2005 1:52 pm (Report this annotation)

I think Mr. Straw's comments are fair and while we have tremendous respect for him we would just like to ensure that the within the definition of 'The Church' (currently defined as an Australian rock band, when clicking this link) that the congregation of Istanbul along with its religious traditions is being adequately represented. Sincerely, Rosalind

Ian Sherwood
Posted on 26 Jul 2005 9:00 am (Report this annotation)

With great respect for the Foreign Secretary in the current climate, I must say that his "answer" falls short of what is needed of his office. His office has not engaged with the legal elected body administering the affairs of St Helena's Chapel, as is clear from his answer. There is now a possibility that may lead to the curbing of the freedom of worship, and the cheapening of our culture. Chipping away at British culture and its lawful institutions may be alright for foxes, but not for the Chaplaincy in Istanbul. Ian Sherwood

Andrew Boord
Posted on 1 Aug 2005 3:16 pm (Report this annotation)

St Helena's was damaged by a terrorist attack against Britain, in 2003: the CG and many others were killed. For the FCO to do anything - anything at all - other than restore the Chapel to its former state and function, would be a surrender to terrorism. The Bishop of Gibraltar should demonstrate his leadership without any further delay. Failing that, the Foreign Secretary should do so, and stop this nonsense immediately. The Foreign Secretary's response shows no real understanding of the matter and is entirely inadequate. The campaign to see the right thing done in this matter goes on!

Ian Johnson
Posted on 15 Aug 2005 5:27 pm (Report this annotation)

Commercialisation of mosques is tolerated by Islam but I am unaware of any serious tendency for Christian churches. Whilst the C of E is our State religion it is surely important to restore St. Helena’s to its proper function.

Osman Streater
Posted on 18 Aug 2005 9:24 am (Report this annotation)

The precedent for what happens to any proposal to make alternative and revenue-producing use of the St Helena chapel building and/or the land on which it stands exists, and indeed exists in Istanbul. It is to be found in proposals which have arisen from time to time to make alternative and revenue-producing use of the British Embassy Summer Residence land at Tarabya on the Bosphorus. The 8.5 acre Tarabya site, donated by the Turkish Sultan to Queen Victoria in 1847, has been vacant for over a hundred years, ever since a fire destroyed the Summer Residence built on it soon after the donation. Property values are high on the Bosphorus, and from time to time someone in HMG has the bright idea that money could be made out of the Tarabya site. The Turkish government, the legal heirs to the Turkish Sultan, then politely points out that the land at Tarabya was a gift; if HMG has no further use for it, then the diplomatically correct course of action is to give the land back, thank you very much. HMG then beats a retreat and drops any money-making dreams. By the same token, St Helena stands on land donated by the Turkish Sultan Selim III to the British Crown in 1801. It would be against all diplomatic precedent, as well as very bad manners, for HMG to seek to raise revenue from a use of the St Helena land within the current Consulate-General complex which bears no resemblance whatsoever to the purposes for which it was originally donated.

Seyda Talul
Posted on 29 Oct 2005 7:07 pm (Report this annotation)

Myself, a muslim Turkish, definetely protest Foreign Affairs' acts for St Helena Chapel. This place is a historical and monumental for both communities. Also a remebrance for those who died after terrorist attacks. St Helena Chapel should remain as a holly shrine for its believers...