23 January, 2007
Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I visited Strasbourg on Monday at the invitation of Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) President Rene van der Linden and addressed the PACE.
Presenting Bartholomew, van der Linden underlined his efforts for the reconciliation of the Greek Orthodox and Catholic churches and for the protection of the environment, for which he had earned international acclaim, as well as his efforts to initiate inter-faith dialogue with the participation of Moslems and Jews and promote religious tolerance.
Among others, the PACE president also called on the Patriarch to contribute to international efforts for a viable solution to the Cyprus problem.
During his address to the assembly, Patriarch Bartholomew called for dialogue in solving intercultural and interreligious conflicts, "especially in times such as ours when our planet is facing many warfronts all over the world." He stressed that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been in "constant dialogue" with the Muslim world. "The necessity and the usefulness of interreligious dialogue has become a property of humanity", he added, while rejecting "analysts of the future of humanity who consider a bloody clash of religions and of religious populations as inevitable".
At another point, Bartholomew noted that the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the surrounding Greek-Orthodox minority in Turkey feel that they still do not enjoy full rights, pointing out that the Turkish state refused to recognize a legal status for the Patriarchate, prohibited the operation of the Theological School of Halki and caused problems in property issues.
Noting, however, that the effort for EU accession had brought about internal reforms and some remarkable steps, the Patriarch said that Fanar had always supported Turkey's European perspective in anticipation that the remaining steps toward attaining the standards of the European Union would be made.
These were also issues brought up by Pope Benedict XVI when he received the credentials of the Turkish ambassador to the Vatican, recently.
According to political analysts, the Patriarch's references to this issue at the CoE gain added importance in the light of a recent ruling by the European Court of Human Rights concerning the property of minority institutions in Turkey.
During his visit, the Patriarch also met the CoE Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg and Turkey's Permanent Representative to the CoE Ambassador Daryal Batibay, while he is scheduled to meet the head of the Turkish mission to the CoE later the same day.
Source: Athens News Agency