Greece Lashes Out At Turkey’s Criticism Of Orthodox Leader

ATHENS (Combined Sources)–Greece hit back Sunday at Turkey’s criticism of the spiritual leader of Orthodox Christians for saying that minority Greeks in Turkey are treated like second-class citizens and feel “crucified sometimes.”

In an interview with the American CBS network that aired Sunday, Greek Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew criticized the Turkish government for not opening the Halki Seminary despite consecutive meetings on the matter. In an immediate reaction, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said he wanted to see the patriarch’s statements as an undesired slip of the tongue.

Greece’s foreign ministry responded that among Turkey’s obligations for joining the European Union is “that respect for the freedom of religion and the rights of minorities takes first place.”

Bartholomew “is known for his wisdom and moderation, and for his unwavering support for Turkey’s membership of the EU,” foreign ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras said in a statement.

“It is the duty of all, and mainly those who carry responsibility for the situation of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Greek minority, to pay attention,” the spokesman added.

In excerpts of the interview released ahead of its full broadcast, Bartholomew said: “We are treated … like second-class citizens. We do not feel like we can enjoy our full rights as Turkish citizens.”

But he ruled out the option of leaving Turkey, saying, “We prefer to stay here, even crucified sometimes.”

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet DavutoGlu rejected accusations of religious discrimination by his government.

“We regard the use of the crucifixion simile as extremely unfortunate. … I would like to see this as an undesired slip of the tongue,” DavutoGlu told reporters Saturday.

“We cannot accept comparisons that we do not deserve,” the minister said.

The Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul dates from the Greek Orthodox Byzantine Empire, which collapsed in 1453 when the city fell to the Ottoman Turks, and Bartholomew represents the world’s 250 million Orthodox Christians.

Ankara does not interfere with the patriarchate’s religious functions, though it withholds recognition of his ecumenical title, treating him only as the spiritual leader of the Orthodox Greeks still living in the country.

President Abdullah Ggl backed Davutoglu’s statement Monday and said he preferred not to make additional comments on the issue.

Kursat Tuzmen, the head of the international-relations unit of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) meanwhile lashed out at the patriarch in an interview with the Turkish NTV channel.

Calling the religious leader’s comments unfortunate, Tuzmen said, “If there is someone who is being crucified, it is the politicians, security officials and others,” he said. “If he is a religious and spiritual leader, he should be much more cautious when making a statement.”

Recalling the words of Patriarch Bartholomew about his love toward his country, Tuzmen added, “Someone who really loves his country has to be more responsible.”

When asked if the government planed to re-open the Halki Seminary, which was closed in 1971 following a Constitutional Court ruling, Tuzmen said, “This process requires a look at the conditions of the Turkish minority in Greece and Bulgaria.”

“We don’t necessarily consider it in terms of rules of reciprocity. But it is our right to ponder the rights of our kin in these countries,” he said. “Can they fully enjoy their rights, or under what conditions can they benefit from freedom of worship?”

“It’s a very unfortunate statement. He will surely make a statement and will express what he meant. Please, let’s all wait for it,” Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, told reporters Sunday.

Arinc said the government had never intended to discriminate against religious minorities and had, only a few months ago, initiated a broad meeting in Istanbul with the representatives of Turkey’s official minority groups.


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  1. Hovsep Melkonian said:

    We all ought to thank Patriarch Bartholomew for bringing world’s attention to the difficulties ethnic
    minorities face in their exercise of religious activities in Turkey. All ethnic
    groups and their religious establishments encounter the same difficulties and
    they must contend with administrative and bureaucratic procedures and practices
    that contradict all claims of democratic credentials modern Turkey likes to
    trumpet all over the place. In recent years these ethnic communities, including
    Armenians, had to sue Turkey before the International Human Rights Court to
    recover confiscated properties. In the light of
    these cases, I am surprised at the reaction of Turkish Government and namely of
    that of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Davutoglu. They both must know that
    all the ethnic minorities in Turkey suffer from the artificial restrictions
    imposed on their activities, whether they pertain to the administration of
    trusts, schools and civil rights. So the words uttered by Patriarch Bartholemew
    should be taken for what they are: the expression of pain that has lasted for
    too long and does not seem to get any better. Why Turkey does not permit the
    re-opening of the Theological School of Halki or takes issue with the
    patriarch’s use of his official title as Ecumenical Patriarch? Why would such
    administrative details bother Turkey or any other government for that matter.
    Turkey has to learn how to respect the heritage of those who were there before
    the formation of Turkish nationhood or state. A truly democratic Turkey should
    recognize not only the past achievements of those ethnic groups that happen to
    be minorities to-day but give every chance and opportunity for them to grow
    further and to continue to enrich the common experience. Unfortunately Turkey
    suffers from an imperial complex and a fear: one the one hand she wants to play
    a role in the region as a stabilizing force but it must be obvious to anybody
    who reads a map why Turkey pursues such objectives. The fear relates to
    Turkey’s constant concerns and worries that the national fabric created ever
    since 1923 is not strong enough to keep its component parts together. Hence
    instead of dialogue, openness, display of tolerance and understanding Turkey
    continues to live by restrictions targeting ethnic symbols, freedoms and
    rights. By following such restrictive policies Turkey cannot be what it claims
    to be: a link between the east and the West.

  2. G. Arthur George said:

    Calcified Moslem Turkey mired in some dark age mentality
    where indoctrinated paranoiac people still tell other people
    what to do:  Freedoms unknown.  Careful “GRAY MILITARY”,
    this is the age of cell phones and instant world wide photographic
    messaging; you can no longer “manufacture” your own “truths”: 
    The intolerance and viciousness of 21st century Islam is lately
    projected in nano-seconds around the world.   Clean out the fears and
    ignorance’s in your own house, then try joining the rest of humanity!
    Take that initiative, sans the burdens of yesterday’s spent militant glory. 

  3. Alex Postallian said:

    For those turkophobes,paid stooges:jerkey,ops,I mean tookey doesn’t get along with no one.The reason is, 80% of the country are illiterate, monghoul mentality.Just think 80%,that is taking first prize.

  4. William said:

    There seems like there is a lot of lashing out going on.
    This is a rare instance in the present where we find a Greek (Cypriots not included) not pandering to the Turks. Let’s rejoice.
    Otherwise, the Greeks are the best proof that there is no such thing as “friends” in international relations. They got what they wanted – a nice chunk of their country, EU membership (and accompanying money, Olympics – and they shut their mouth about Turkey.
    Armenia and Armenians have no friends. No country does. Self-interest always prevails. Accept this.

  5. Grish Begian said:

    Ottoman Turks destroyed Byzantine civilization and forced Christians to accept Islam, therefore an handful leftover of Christians in Turkey, still is an obstacle for racist Islamist Turkish Government…

  6. Mego said:

     William’s respond ,and other opinions between now and then, reflect the true wealth of  our   nation  , that the world is trying to silence or buy .

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