September 16, 2014

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: Turkish relations improving

Greek Reporter’s Anastasios Papapostolou interviews Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I about improving relations with the Turkish government and his upcoming environmental symposium in the United States next month.

Greek Reporter: It is a great honor for us to meet you.

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: Your visit gives me joy and I am glad we are meeting today. I would like to take a moment to send my regards to all the readers of Greek Reporter and all the members of Greek diaspora.

GR: You have planned a visit to the US. Please tell us about your upcoming mission.

EP: I will be in the US the last days of October and I will stay until November 10th. I will first visit Mississippi where we will participate at the 8th International Inter-religious Ecological Symposium. This conference was started by the Patriarchate in 1995 and first convened on an island in the Aegean Sea. Subsequent locations included meetings near the Black Sea, Danube River, Adriatic Sea, Baltic Sea, Amazon River, in Finland, and now the 2009 conference is to be held at the Mississippi River from the 18th of October until the 25th.

GR: Are you planning any visits to other states?

EP: From Mississippi I will go to New York for the celebration of St. Demetrius on the 27th of October. On this day the United States Archbishop celebrates not only his name day, but also 10 years since his election to the position. Then I will spend one day in Atlanta because the president of Coca-Cola is Turkish and he is a very good human being and very successful, proof of this is that such a major company chose him to be their CEO.

GR: What will you do in Washington?

EP: I will visit the Capital and I will have meetings with the President, Vice President, and Secretary of State. The Vice President and the Secretary will each host a dinner in honor of the Patriarchate.

GR: Is your appointment with the President certain?

EP: Yes, it is certain that we will meet but we do not know the exact time and date yet.

GR: You’ve met President Obama before…

EP: Yes, we met here in Istanbul when he came to visit Turkey. He received me in his hotel and then we had time to discuss a few things. After he met with me, he received all the other religious leaders as a group, but he saw me separately.

GR: He has supported the reopening of the Theological School of Chalki…

EP: Yes, he said that officially in front of the Great Assembly of Turkey. He said that the Theological School should reopen and this will send a very important message from Turkey.

GR: Do you think that the Prime Minister of Turkey, Mr. Erdogan, has the same opinion? What did he tell you in the meeting you had at the Prince’s Islands?

EP: t’s true we had a meeting in Prinkipos (Buyukade) where there were also other religious leaders. The most important thing for us was that he visited the old orphanage which at a certain point the Governor of Vakuvia tried to take from us. We lost the legal case here and then we went to the International Court of Human Rights and there we won. So, Mr. Erdogan visited the building that Turkey lost, which is in bad shape. Last, he went to St. George’s Monastery. He was very amenable. He visited the temple of the monastery and went to the reception room and signed the guest book with a very kind message. We were his hosts and we exchanged presents. He gave us a lot of hope for resolutions to the issues between the Patriarchate and Turkey with his friendly attitude and his honesty, especially the reopening of the Theological School in Chalki.

GR: If Turkey allows it, is the school ready to open?

EP: Yes, the school is absolutely ready. It can start operating immediately.

GR: What is the current relationship between the Patriarchate and Turkey?

EP: Things are much better with Turkey now. This government has treated the Patriarchate and minority groups much better than previous administrations. This gives us a lot of hope.

GR: You’ve been called “The Green Patriarch” by many members of the press, because of your involvement with the environment. Tell us a few words about the Patriarchate’s actions for this issue.

EP: Our Patriarchate has been involved with this issue for many years. Environmental protection is a problem for all of humanity, not just the Orthodox community. It is a very hot topic, I have to admit that the actions towards environmental activism of the Patriarchate were initiated by the Patriarch before me, Patriarch Demetrius, and I have been working to continue pressing the issue with these ecological symposiums. Patriarch Demetrius designated the 1st of September as Environment Day for the Orthodox Church. Every year on that day we sing hymns for the protection of the environment. We have also published a book with our thoughts on the issue and why the Church is involved with it. You will see that we were the first Christian Church to become seriously involved with this issue. This is a matter of honor for us.

GR: Is this the first issue on your agenda?

EP: It is one of the first ones. We are also trying to have a dialogue with the other Christians that are not united. We also have discussions with members of the other monotheistic religions. We often meet with members of the Jewish and Muslim faiths to further understand them. We do not want to exist in a state of competition or conflict. We want friendship and to be able to sit at the same table like civilized human beings. The union will come with God’s will. Nobody knows this, but we as human beings — regardless of religion — have to lay the groundwork of mutual respect, love, and collaboration on issues like ecology, war, peace, sickness, and all these matters that do not need dogmatic unity. These are social issues that we can collaborate on even without religious unity

Comments

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    George Patsourakos says:

    While visiting the United States from the end of October until November 10, 2009, I hope that Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew makes time to discuss American Orthodox unity with the Orthodox Christian Laity (OCL) and other unity-focused groups.

    This is a serious Orthodox issue that the Ecumenical Patriarch needs to address now. Failure to do so might well result in a schism of several Orthodox jurisdictions in America, which could develop their own united American Orthodox Church, since they are tired of waiting for the Ecumenical Patriarch’s approval.

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    John Panos says:

    The Coca-Cola company chose their president because he’s such a good guy? Really?

    This is the man who claims Human economy is failing? Does he know anything about business, economy or human endeavors at all?

    I’ll put it as gently as I can: He needs better advisors.

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    John Panos says:

    By the way, am I the only one who is sick and tired of the load of non sequitors coming from our hierarchs and primates?

    It boggles the mind to think they actually believe what they are saying, or worse, are covering what they really believe with the baffling statements that they issue.

    And, frankly, it’s an embarrassment to us before the entire world.

    Yep. There, I said it.

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    Michael Bauman says:

    The union will come with God’s will. Nobody knows this, but we as human beings — regardless of religion — have to lay the groundwork of mutual respect, love, and collaboration on issues like ecology, war, peace, sickness, and all these matters that do not need dogmatic unity. These are social issues that we can collaborate on even without religious unity

    He may be right about the possibility of collabortion without unity if he is only speaking in institutional and political terms. However, a Christian approach is eschatological and anthropologial. The Christian understanding of our interaction with the rest of creation is absolutely dependent upon Christian eschatology and anthropology. Even the issue of war/peace is difficult to approach at all without addressing the differnt secular and theological eschatological visons that are causing conflict around the world. Somehow, I cannot imagine a Muslim dedictated to the Ummah would really care to collaborate with either Christians or Jews on matters of war and peace. There is not even a common definition of the words.

    Love does not mean that we will understand and accept each other, after all Jesus loved and was sent to the Cross. The Church’s love is supposed to be prophetic not sentimental. Why didn’t he just say everything will be fine if we get around a camp fire and sing Kumbaya.

    There is a difference between being irenic and humble, desiring to conform oneself to God’s will and being passive.

    Lord have mercy and forgive us all.

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    Isa Almisry says:

    “We are also trying to have a dialogue with the other Christians that are not united.”

    You mean, the Orthodox in North America? LOL.

    Maybe his Divine Holiness will meet with Met. Jonah. He’s a very good human being too.

    I remember the chorttling after Chambesy, that the EP was coming in the Fall to give us a united Episcopal Assembly. Are any other hierarchs besides his “exarch” on the agenda, or will he be too busy schmoozing the powers that be?

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    Greg says:

    RE (The)… International Inter-religious Ecological Symposium. This conference was started by the Patriarchate in 1995… the actions towards environmental activism of the Patriarchate were initiated by the Patriarch before me… Patriarch Demetrius designated the 1st of September as Environment Day for the Orthodox Church… You will see that we were the first Christian Church to become seriously involved with this issue.

    When people say they were “the first” at anything it often makes me wonder.

    Not to take anything away from the EP, or Orthodox concern about the environment, or Orthodox efforts to make things better, but I don’t think that the Orthodox “were the first Christian Church to become seriously involved with this issue.”

    I believe the first Environment Day was in 1989. The Religion, Science and the Environment symposiums date from 1995 (which the EP notes).

    I don’t know if Catholics were “the first,” but the The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace began as a commission in 1967 – over 20 years before the first Environment Day.

    The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace is concerned with all that touches upon social justice, the world of work, international life, development in general and social development in particular. It also promotes ethical reflection on the evolution of economic and financial systems and addresses problems related to the environment and the responsible use of the earth’s resources…”

    “Because of the interest of the Holy See in the work of the United Nations, the Pontifical Council, in collaboration with the Secretariat of State, has frequent contacts with the United Nations and its specialized agencies, especially at the time of the major international conferences that deal with such questions as development, population, environment, international trade, or human rights….

    “The Council also publishes books: reports of meetings that it has organized, systematic collections of pontifical texts on a particular social question, studies on contemporary issues, such as the perspective of the Catholic Church on human rights, the environment, or the ethical dimensions of the economy, financial activities and the world of work.

    http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/justpeace/documents/rc_pc_justpeace_pro_20011004_en.html

    Unless, of course, the EP doesn’t think that Catholics are “seriously involved with this issue.”

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    Greg says:

    The highlighting above is a little messed up because I hit “post” when I meant to hit “preview.”

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    Andrew says:

    Can the EP’s upcoming Mississippi sojourn even be considered a pastoral visit the Church in America?

    Lets see the Enviromentalists/Socialists get a week and Coca cola gets their turn but it looks like the Church in America comes in Third.

    I would love to see just a good old pastoral visit with goal of strengthening the faitful

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    George Michalopulos says:

    My oh my, the contagion of cynicism seems to be catching. Unfortnately, the Phanar and its minions in the “diaspora” hve nobody but themselves to blame. “By their fruits, ye shall know them.”

    may the Lord have mercy,

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