Ecumenical Patriarchate could aid rapprochement

Do you think it would benefit Turkey to acknowledge and highlight the ecumenical character of the Patriarchate? Ahmet: Absolutely. The Patriarchate can aid rapprochement between Turks and Orthodox Christians, which is vitally important for Turkey, as it wants to join the European Union. The Ecumenical Patriarchate can play a very significant part in bringing it closer to Europe. Besides, the Orthodox Church is the best mediator between religions; its followers have lived alongside Muslims for centuries. I’m not saying that coexistence was always peaceful and friendly, but it did create channels of communication. I am surprised and sorry that some people in our country want to downgrade the role of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. If the government actively promoted the role of the Patriarchate as the center of Orthodoxy, it would boost Turkey’s international role in the spiritual sphere. Some nationalists in Athens don’t want it to play an important part because it’s in Turkey. Russia wants Moscow to be seen as the center of Orthodoxy. Are you alarmed by the attacks on Christians in Trabzon and Malatya? Who do you think is behind them? A: I don’t think anything like that could happen in Istanbul. With EU access talks, Turkey is changing dramatically. Turks are becoming more open and tolerant. But some extremists inevitably react to change. Insane resistance to progress can be found anywhere. These are dark forces that have no connection to the state.