© Copyright Embassy of Greece 1996-2005. All Rights Reserved.
04 April, 1998
The foreign ministry yesterday lodged a strong protest with Turkey over the recent desecration of a Greek Orthodox cemetery in Istanbul.
The adviser of the ministry's directorate for Greek-Turkish affairs, Georgios Avgoustis, summoned an official of the Turkish embassy in Athens and conveyed the government's "extreme displeasure" about the vandalism itself and the fact that the perpetrators remain at large "just as those responsible for desecrating churches and cemeteries of the Greek community in Turkey also remain at large".
Main opposition New Democracy party yesterday called on the government to protest to international organizations over the desecration. The government on Thursday described the vandalism as a "barbaric act" and called on Ankara to "deal decisively with such deplorable acts".
Vandals desecrated dozens of graves in the Greek cemetery in Istanbul early Tuesday, breaking marble slabs and scattering beheaded skeletons.
Vandals desecrated the Greek cemetery at Neohorio on the Bosporus in September 1993, while last year another Greek cemetery in the Istanbul suburb of Kantili was the target of vandals and the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople was the target of a bomb attack for the third time in recent years. In January, the sexton of the Agios Therapon Church in Istanbul was found murdered.
No arrests were ever made.
Spyridon urges US condemnation:
Archbishop of America Spyridon urged members of the US Congress as well as national, civic and religious leaders in the United States to respond to the latest desecration against a Greek Orthodox cemetery in Istanbul.
Earlier this week, more than 70 graves in the Greek Orthodox cemetery of Agios Eleftherios in the Kurtulus region of Istanbul were vandalized.
Spyridon urged the political and spiritual leadership in the United States to come to the defense of the faithful and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the worldwide center of Orthodox Christianity. He also addressed a letter to US President Bill Clinton.
"Mr. President, this most recent attack upon even the dead causes great pain to all people. I need to ask: 'What is the sin of those who repose in the hope of Resurrection? What is the sin of those fathers and mothers who lay at peace and cause no offense?' Ultimately, where is the righteousness in attacking the bones which sanctify the earth in which they were placed?" a portion of the letter reads.
In a public statement, Archbishop Spyridon said "I am shaken and very concerned regarding the recent desecration of more than 70 Greek Orthodox graves in Istanbul, Turkey. In the very recent past the compound of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been bombed, resulting in casualties and property damage, a church was broken into and a sexton was murdered, and now even those who lie in the tombs have been attacked."
This was the third incident in four months in Istanbul. On December 3, 1997, a bomb attack against the Patriarchal compound in the Phanar district of Istanbul seriously injured a deacon and damaged the Patriarchal Cathedral. On Jan. 13, the Church of Agios Therapon was pillaged and the sexton was murdered. There was also an incident on the island of Imvros, a one-time predominately Greek Orthodox isle, where the Church of the Annunciation was robbed and vandalized.
Source: Athens News Agency