L'eglise latine dans l'Empire Ottoman

Translated title of the contribution: [Autom. eng. transl.] The Latin Church in the Ottoman Empire

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The Latin Catholic Church in the East is one of the smallest communities but has a very ancient history. Created in the Byzantine era, within the colonies of Italian traders, it was maintained even during the Ottoman period. The Latin Catholic community was recognized as one of the religious communities (millet) of the Empire, but due to the link with the pope of Rome - authority external to the Ottoman world - the Latins always had a particular legal status, without full recognition as a religious community like the others. Rome, to strengthen its ties with the eastern Latins, progressively favored the extension of the French protectorate over them. During the nineteenth century, the Latin community became increasingly composite due to the immigration of European citizens who settled in the main centers of the Empire, becoming Ottomans while still enjoying European protection. These new Ottoman Latins, the so-called "Levantines", assumed a main role in the community, thanks to the ties with the European countries and the privileges that this entailed. The economic and social rise of the Ottoman Christian communities occurred in connection with the strengthening of ties with the West: the Latin Catholics, therefore, were perceived more and more by the Ottomans as "foreign" Christians. At the same time, the process of "Romanization" of the Latin Church of the East was strengthened, with a new division of jurisdictions, the creation of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem (1847) and the erection of the Apostolic Delegation of Constantinople (1867). The identification between the Eastern Catholics and the "colonial" policies of the European powers represented a serious problem that threatened these communities. To avoid this eventuality, the Holy See developed a pro-Ottoman policy, aimed to create direct relations with the Empire, trying to gain more autonomy from the French protectorate. The situation was complicated by the creation of italian State. The new kingdom wanted to gain an important role in the Mediterranean sea. In the East there existed several Italian communities and many of the Catholic missionaries living in the Ottoman Empire were italians. Progressively, the Italian government tried to use these presences to expand its influence. The Holy See therefore was tightened between the french protectorate and the italian pressures. When the relations between the Vatican and France broke with the crisis of 1905, Italy assumed a greater role in protecting Catholicism in the East, even if this was questioned with the outbreak of the Italo-Ottoman war in Libya in 1911. The Ottoman reaction to Italian aggression was the expulsion of Italians from the Empire. Italian Catholic missionaries were, however, largely saved from expulsion, thanks to the prestige enjoyed by the Holy See in the East. The Vatican's good reputation with the Ottoman authorities allowed the Holy See to play an important role during the First World War trying to reduce violence against Christians and provide help to the affected populations. For this reason, after the war, the Vatican delegate in Istanbul became the "defender" of the Eastern Christian communities. After the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the Latin Catholic Church had assumed the role of “guarantor” of Christianity in the new Republic of Turkey.
Translated title of the contribution[Autom. eng. transl.] The Latin Church in the Ottoman Empire
Original languageFrench
Pages (from-to)31-44
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Eglise latine
  • Empire Ottoman
  • Latin Church
  • Ottoman Empire


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