04 December, 2004
Government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos on Friday said that a statement by a United States official expressing Washington's desire for the 'unobstructed operation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate' echoed the views of the present and former Greek governments.
Regarding statements on the issue by Tourism Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos, meanwhile, the spokesman said that respect for religious rights was one of the issues that concerned the European Union and one of the conditions for a country wishing to join the Community.
Asked to comment on a recent upsurge in airspace violations and infringements by Turkish planes and Turkey's statements concerning the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Fanar, Roussopoulos noted that "there were actions that are not helpful for preserving the good climate that Athens and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan have said they want for the two countries."
The statement regarding the Patriarchate was made by a U.S. official on Thursday, who also underlined that the United States «recognizes Patriarch Vartholomeos as the spiritual leader of millions of Orthodox Christians throughout the world."
The official added that, for years now, the firm position of the United States is the necessity for the reopening of the School of Theology Halki, a development which for the U.S. is incorporated within the framework of the safeguarding of the religious freedoms and the protection of human rights.
According to the ANA correspondent in Ankara, meanwhile, U.S. Under Secretary for Political Affairs Marc Grossman has raised the issue of reopening the Halki School of Theology during meetings in Washington with visiting Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin within a series of recommendations to facilitate Turkey's entry into the EU.
In statements reported by the Turkish news agency Anadolu, Sahin said he had conveyed to the U.S. side Ankara's displeasure that Euro-Turkish relations were being linked to matters concerning the Patriarchate and the Halki School of Theology.
The US State Department expressed full support of the ecumenicality of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at Phanar, in statements on Thursday by state department spokesman Richard Boucher when asked to comment on recent statements by the Turkish prime minister that he would not allow foreign diplomats to attribute the title of 'Ecumenical Patriarch' to "a simple Turkish citizen".
"We have long regarded the Patriarch as ecumenical, and thus is the spiritual leader for many inside and outside Turkey," Boucher said during a regular press briefing.
Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan disputed the ecumenicality of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in an interview on Turkish television Wednesday night, calling on all state functionaries not to attend a reception Thursday in Ankara hosted by the Archons (Elders) of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in honor of US ambassador to Turkey Eric Edelman, saying that "we consider it a mistake that a citizen of ours should issue invitations using titles he does not have and which are attributed to him from abroad".
The Turkish government also decided that it would not be represented at a separate reception hosted earlier Thursday by Edelman for a delegation of Orthodox Church elders from the US visiting Ankara, for the same reason given that the invitation addressed by the embassy to Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos contained "Ecumenical Patriarch" in his title.
Source: Athens News Agency