Demetrios: “Ecumenical Patriarch emphatically stated the need for the Turkish Government to finally act in accordance with the ideals of democracy and freedom of religion”
New York.- U.S. public opinion was shocked by the dramatic appeal by the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, was said during an appearance on CBS’ “60 Minutes” that the Orthodox Christians in Turkey are treated as second-class citizens and they often feel crucified.
Various religious organizations across the United States expressed their support, while in Illinois advertisements appeared in various news media, denouncing the policies of Turkey against the Ecumenical Throne.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, commented that “our Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew offered during his 60 Minutes interview a superb and compelling witness for our Ecumenical Patriarchate. Painfully, but calmly and without any trace of hostility, he presented the tremendous difficulties that the Patriarchate faces. As we know, the difficulties include in addition to the closure of Halki, the refusal of the Turkish Government to recognize the title “Ecumenical” for the Patriarch, the confiscation of innumerable properties of the Patriarchate and the denial of the legal status of the Patriarchate. The Ecumenical Patriarch emphatically stated the need for the Turkish Government to finally act in accordance with the ideals of democracy and freedom of religion which it frequently likes to proclaim.”
Nicholas A. Karacostas, supreme president of the AHEPA, issued the following statement regarding the 60 Minutes segment on Orthodox Christianity featuring His All Holiness:
“We are grateful to 60 Minutes for producing a very insightful segment on Orthodox Christianity and for conducting an interview with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. We hope the interview heightened awareness, in the United States and abroad, of the plight and hostile conditions endured by the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey. We also hope it educated the public about the impressive 17-century history of the second largest and most ancient Christian Church in the world and Holy See of 300 million Orthodox Christians.
“We continue to urge the United States government to exert its influence on the Turkish government to grant religious freedom and human rights to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and furthermore, grant the Ecumenical Patriarch appropriate international recognition.
“We were deeply touched and moved by the interview. As always, our love and respect for the Ecumenical Patriarch, and commitment to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, is unwavering..”
In addition, AHEPA will send a letter of appreciation to the producers of 60 Minutes.
Foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras on Sunday emphasised the importance of statements made by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I in an interview with CBS, in which the spiritual leader of the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians complained of feeling “crucified” and like a “second-class citizen” living in Turkey.
“Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew is the religious and spiritual leader of hundreds of millions of Orthodox Christians throughout the world. He is a leader noted for his wisdom and moderation, as well as his unswerving support for Turkey’s accession to the European Union. When the disappointment of such a leader is recorded so unequivocally in an interview, excerpts of which we have seen, it is the responsibility of all and especially of those who are responsible for the situation faced by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek minority, to listen to him carefully,” the spokesman stressed.
Regarding the incensed reaction from Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, who criticised the Patriarch’s remarks as ‘unacceptable’ and urged him to convey his complaints to the ‘relevant authorities’, Delavekouras simply noted that Turkey’s obligations were well known to all.
“The problems, obstacles and shortages have been recorded in detail in the relevant EU reports. Among [Turkey’s] obligations to the EU, of primary importance is respect for religious freedoms and minority rights, as is expressly stated in the conclusions of the EU Council we adopted a few days ago,” the spokesman said, adding that this was a condition for Turkey’s accession course.
Among the key complaints of the Patriarchate are Ankara’s refusal to recognise the Patriarch’s ecumenical title and its insistence on treating him as the leader of only the few thousand Orthodox Greeks remaining in Turkey, as well as Turkey’s refusal to open the Theological School of Halki and thus depriving the Patriarchate of a means to train its clergy.
Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu on Saturday told reporters: “We consider the crucifixion metaphor an extremely unfortunate metaphor. In our history, there have never been crucifixions, and there never will be. I couldn’t really reconcile this metaphor with his mature personality.”
Turkish President Abdullah Gül, speaking at a press conference on Monday ahead of his departure from Ankara for an official visit to Kuwait, was reminded of the controversial remarks by Bartholomew.
“The foreign minister spoke of the issue extremely well. There is nothing further to say on the issue,” Gül responded briefly.