NEWS

Turkey agitated by patriarch

The spiritual leader of the world’s Orthodox Christians has prompted a disagreement with the Turkish government after telling a correspondent of the respected CBS news show «60 Minutes» that he feels as if he is being «crucified» by authorities in Turkey. Ankara responded by labeling the patriarch’s comments as «extremely unfortunate.» In a feature that was due to be aired in the USA last night, Vartholomaios explains to CBS reporter Bob Simon the difficulties that he and his Patriarchate face in Turkey. «It is not [a] crime… to be a minority living in Turkey but we are treated as… second class,» Vartholomaios tells Simon. «We don’t feel that we enjoy our full rights as Turkish citizens.» Vartholomaios has campaigned for the reopening of the orthodox seminary on the island of Halki following its closure by Turkish authorities in 1971. Also, according to Turkish law, the only potential successors to Vartholomaios must be Turkish-born and trained at the Halki school. «[The Turkish government] would be happy to see the Patriarchate extinguished or moving abroad, but our belief is that it will never happen,» says Vartholomaios. «This is the continuation of Jerusalem and for us an equally holy and sacred land. We prefer to stay here, even crucified sometimes.» Vartholomaios’s choice of words did not go down well in Ankara. «We regard the use of the crucifixion analogy as extremely unfortunate… I would like to see this as a mistaken slip of the tongue,» said Turkey’s foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu. «We cannot accept comparisons that we do not deserve.» The minister rejected criticism that Turkey was discriminating against its citizens based on their religion. Athens responded by reminding Turkey that displaying respect for other religions and minority rights are among the conditions it has to meet to join the European Union. «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,» said Foreign Ministry spokesman Grigoris Delavekouras in a statement.