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Aegean offers high potential for Orthodox faith tourism

HDN | 5/11/2010 12:00:00 AM | İZMİR – Doğan News Agency

Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew said he supports the İzmir Chamber of Commerce for its activities to develop the relations between Turkey and Greece.

In a visit over the weekend to the chamber of commerce of the Aegean port city of İzmir, Istanbul Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew expressed support for the activities, including those in tourism, conducted to develop relations between Turkey and Greece.

Having participated in a ritual at the Temple of Serapis in İzmir’s Bergama district, Bartholomew visited the İzmir Chamber of Commerce in a return visit for the chamber chief’s previous visit to Istanbul.

Bartholomew said he was closely monitoring the activities the chamber conducts for the development of Turkish-Greek relations and the solution of the problems between the two countries.

“We may introduce a wider audience to faith tourism locations in İzmir and the Aegean region through a work titled Aegean Orthodox Faith Tourism,” said Ekrem Demirtaş, chairperson of the İzmir Chamber of Commerce during the visit. Demirtaş also invited Bartholomew to Peace Chain, or Barış Zinciri, a boat trip to take place on Sept. 21 between Kuşadası, a resort town on Turkey's Aegean coast, and Samos, a Greek island in the North Aegean.

The patriarch supported Demirtaş’s proposal to introduce locations prominent for faith tourism in Turkey, particularly in İzmir and the Aegean region.

[HH] Ongoing debate on Halki Seminary

Bartholomew drew particular attention to the seminary problem. “Our generation is gradually becoming extinct, and I have concerns for the future. Where will our ecclesiastics get their education? Moreover, it would be proper to have a Halki Seminary graduate at the top of the Patriarchate. Our ecclesiastics who studied at Halki Seminary and are currently serving abroad are all Turkish-loving people.”

Once Turkey’s principal facility for the training of Greek Orthodox clerics, the school was shuttered in 1971 in a ruling that curtailed most private higher education in Turkey. The ban has long been decried by both members of the local Greek community as well as the United States and the European Union.

Noting that the Turkish government has taken a significant step and granted the right for Fener Greek Patriarchate affiliated metropolitans serving in several countries to have Turkish citizenship as a secondary citizenship, Bartholomew said: “A substantial proportion of them have approved this. They have sent us their documents, and we have delivered them to Ankara. We are waiting for a response now.”

The activities the İzmir Chamber of Commerce conducts to develop Turkish-Greek relations aim not only at boosting trade, but also securing sustainable peace in the Aegean, said Demirtaş.

“With this target in mind, we will organize on Sept. 21 a Peace Chain between Kuşadası and Samos Island, which are the closest locations between the two countries. We would be pleased to see the participation of the patriarch with the head of [Turkey’s] Religious Affairs Directorate and attendance of citizens from both countries. This would increase the meaning of the event,” said Demirtaş. Bartholomew said he would be pleased to attend the event.

Demirtaş will be attending Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s visit to Athens scheduled for Thursday and Friday. “It is a very influential and significant meeting,” Demirtaş said regarding the Athens visit.

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