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Ankara awaits clarification from patriarch

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News | 12/21/2009 12:00:00 AM |

Turkey has said it is awaiting clarification from Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew after he said he feels 'crucified' and 'second class' in the country.

Turkey has said it is awaiting clarification from Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew after he said he feels “crucified” and “second class” in the country.

“It’s a very unfortunate statement. He will surely make a statement and will express what he meant. Please, let’s all wait for it,” Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç told reporters Sunday.

Arınç said the government had never intended to discriminate against religious minorities and had, only a few months ago, initiated a broad meeting in Istanbul with the representatives of Turkey’s official minority groups.

In an interview with the American CBS network that aired Sunday, Patriarch Bartholomew criticized the Turkish government for not opening the Halki Seminary despite consecutive meetings on the matter. In an immediate reaction, Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu said he wanted to see the patriarch’s statements as an undesired slip of the tongue.

President Abdullah Gül backed Davutoğlu’s statement Monday and said he preferred not to make additional comments on the issue.

Kürşat Tüzmen, the head of the international-relations unit of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, meanwhile lashed out at the patriarch in an interview with the private channel NTV.

Calling the religious leader’s comments unfortunate, Tüzmen drew attention to the timing of the statement. “If there is someone who is being crucified, it is the politicians, security officials and others,” he said. “If he is a religious and spiritual leader, he should be much more cautious when making a statement.”

Recalling the words of Patriarch Bartholomew about his love toward his country, Tüzmen added, “Someone who really loves his country has to be more responsible.”

When asked about the government’s plans to re-open the Halki Seminary, which was closed in 1971 following a Constitutional Court ruling, Tüzmen said, “This process requires a look at the conditions of the Turkish minority in Greece and Bulgaria.”

“We don’t necessarily consider it in terms of rules of reciprocity. But it is our right to ponder the rights of our kin in these countries,” he said. “Can they fully enjoy their rights, or under what conditions can they benefit from freedom of worship?”

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