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22 May, 2000
Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos concluding his visit in northern Greece on Sunday called on citizens to maintain this crossroads open to those who come with positive motives, but close it to those who want to use it for immoral and racist activities.
Speaking at the small border town of Ferres, Evros prefecture, Vartholomeos said "you happen to be on a great and historical bridge, which is called Thrace and unites the east with the west.
"It was through these regions that the Gospel of Christ came toward Europe. You should maintain this venue open for those who come in good faith. Block it for those who become transporters of religious racism, fanaticism, slave trade, as well as ideas and substances of death," he added.
"You should develop relations, bonds and institutions thus providing a model of peaceful coexistence of Christians and Muslims in a spirit of mutual respect and solidarity," the Orthodox prelate said.
Vartholomeos also noted that everyone should understand that "the peaceful resolution of all differences is an elemental component of civilization and entry to the society of civilized countries". He stressed that his speech did not contain any political motives.
Addressing Greek-Turkish relations he said that as conditions changed for the better "we are indebted to Holy God and to those people who contributed for this change of climate and we feel optimistic for the future, we look forward with hopeful prospects.
"We request of Holy God, the master of peace, for this development to be permanent, (we request) that there will be no backtracking and to have peace, mutual understanding, cooperation, mutual respect and respect for the territorial integrity of both sides, of each state, of each of the two nations.
"With these preconditions in a few years, as we hope, the full entry of Turkey in the European Union will be achieved, event that will provide even greater prospects for the peoples of the region, for the Balkans.
This entry, will solve automatically the problems of the Greeks (in Turkey) and of the Patriarchate, an entry supported by Greece at the recent summit in Helsinki," Vartholomeos said.
Vartholomeos inaugurated in Alexandroupolis the 16th national conference of the international association of police officers on Saturday before traveling to the nearby northeastern Aegean island of Samothrace.
Source: Athens News Agency