Patriarch ‘encourages’ gov’t for minority rights

Vercihan Ziflioğlu
Hürriyet

Even though the Patriarch praised the government in an international platform, this does not mean all of the problems of the Greek community had been totally solved, opinion leaders from the Greek community in Turkey have said.

Former Greek PM Georgios Papandreou (L) talks to Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew before their meeting March 23. AA photo

Turkey’s stance toward minorities is praiseworthy, Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew said while meeting the former Greek Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou on March 23, and his statement was interpreted as giving support to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government.

Bartholomew said at the meeting with Papandreou: “We are able to breathe freely again on several matters thanks to the courageous administration of the Erdoğan government. Circumstances are better than the past for the Greeks and other minorities.”

On Saturday, the Patriarch once again expressed his contentment that the title deed for a Greek elementary school building had been returned to a Greek foundation. While he was expressing his satisfaction at the Galata school, he also drew attention to the fact that several churches that belonged to the community had still not been returned.

Encouraging the gov’t

Editor-in-chief of the Greek-language daily Apoyevmatini, Mihalis Vasiliadis, interpreted both of statements for Hürriyet Daily News: “The Patriarch wants to encourage the government. The whole contexts of the speeches need to be reviewed,” adding that some distance had been covered in the solution to problems, but there was still a long way to go.

“The entire speeches of the Patriarch are not repeated. The Patriarch, while thanking, also said ‘but.’ Each word that comes out of Patriarch Bartholomeos is given huge significance, and with these statements he is improving Turkey’s image in the world. But at the same time, he also gives the message: ‘Do solve our problems in the real sense.’ The Halki Seminary still has not been returned. Our population is down to 1,500 and a school in Gökçeada has yet to be opened.”

Head of the Gökçeada Association and one of the administrators of Fener Hagia Yorgi Church Foundation Stelyo Berber agreed with Vasiliadis. “The Patriarch is trying to maintain a positive approach on the solution of problems, but this does not mean our issues have totally been solved,” he said.

Vercihan Ziflioğlu vercihan.ziflioglu@hurriyet.com.tr