Head of Religious Affairs directorate visits Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew

Head of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate Mehmet Gormez yesterday visited Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew at the patriarchate in Istanbul.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, Gormez said, "As the Religious Affairs Directorate, we consider non-Muslim citizens living in Turkey as an essential constituent of our country. Furthermore, we believe that they have the right to educate their own children in line with their faith and train their own religious functionaries. We think that they should have the same rights which we want for ourselves in freedom of religion and faith, and freedom of education." Gormez said that a religious community’s dependence on other countries to raise their own theologians does not befit Turkey as a major country. In direct reference to the Halki Seminary which was established on the island of Heybeliada and then closed in 1971, Gormez said, “I would like to note that its continuation in accordance with the relevant laws and regulations just as it did throughout history will befit the greatness of this country.”

For his part, Bartholomew said they were very pleased with Gormez’s statements supporting the reopening of the Greek seminary and offered his thanks to him for his support. “We follow and appreciate your activities, the beautiful things you do and the beautiful speeches you make. We also follow your statements about the reopening of Halki Seminary with pleasure, and feel gratitude for them,” Bartholomew said. Gormez’s visit is significant, as it is the first time a directorate head visits the patriarchate in Istanbul.

Bagis defines Gormez’s visit as historic

Turkey’s EU Minister and Chief Negotiator Egemen Bagis described the visit which was paid by Head of Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate Mehmet Gormez to Fener Greek Patriarch Bartholomew at the patriarchate in Istanbul yesterday as “historic.” Bagis said that his visit was quite meaningful, adding, “It’s indeed a historic visit. I would like to congratulate him for his determination and tolerance. This is what should be done. People from different religions have lived altogether in this country.” Bagis also said that he held a phone conversation with the Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis and requested his sensitivity for certain issues to be handled in Greece.


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