Patriarch wants calm for pope

ANKARA (AP) – The spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians cautioned Turks in an interview published Sunday against creating potential «unpleasant incidents» during Pope Benedict XVI’s upcoming trip to Turkey. Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios said in an interview published in the Sabah newspaper that the pope’s November 28 – December 1 trip was a great opportunity for Turkey, and he would tell the pontiff that the country belonged in the European Union, which Ankara has long sought to join. The pope’s visit to Turkey was born out of Benedict’s desire to meet Vartholomaios, who has his headquarters in Istanbul, once Constantinople. The pontiff will meet privately with Vartholomaios on November 29. Vartholomaios said the pope’s trip was a great opportunity for Turkey. «If it were used badly, it would be harmful for Turkey’s image. While aspiring to be an EU member, we should avoid such an image.» Patriarch Vartholomaios insisted that Turkey should reopen a Greek Orthodox theology school shut down 35 years ago. Turkey has been resisting pressure from the EU to reopen the Halki Seminary on Heybeliada Island near Istanbul, which was closed to new students in 1971. «As Turkish citizens, we pay tax, we serve in the military, we vote and we want the same rights. But it does not happen,» Vartholomaios said. «If Muslims want to study theology, there are 24 theology faculties. Where are we going to study?» Turkey does not recognize the patriarch’s international role and rejects his use of the title «ecumenical,» or universal. «We’ve have this title since the 6th century. The word of ecumenical has no political content. This title is the only thing that I insist upon, I will never renounce this title,» Vartholomaios said.

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