Many Greeks want to move back
to Turkey, says the patriarch. DAILY NEWS photo
citizens are looking to move to Turkey due to the dire economic situation back home, Greek Orthodox
Patriarch Bartholomew has said, according to daily Milliyet.
According to the Orthodox
spiritual leader, both Greeks who left the country in the past, as well as those with familial roots in the country, are seeking to go east to Turkey, the daily reported yesterday.
“Although Prime Minister [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan] invites [the Greeks of Istanbul origin], it is not easy for them to return. But I wish they would return. In Athens, there is a federation for those who are of Istanbul origin. This federation demands the return of their citizenship from the Turkish government,” Bartholomew said.
Turkish citizenship could be granted to them in order to encourage their migration to Turkey, he said, but added that the move would not be enough on its own because those who have departed possess no land or real estate in Turkey.
“[Their properties] were either sold or occupied. Their children do not speak Turkish. They study at foreign schools in Athens, Thessaloniki, or other parts of Europe. They need to find a job and have some guarantee for future,” the patriarch said.
Bartholomew also emphasized the significance of the Fener Greek
Patriarchate. “It is a 17-century-old institution, the oldest establishment in the Balkans and the region. So, the future of this institution also concerns Turkey,” Bartholomew said.
Bartholomew also referred to the events in Sept. 6-7, 1955, during which many minorities of Turkey, including the Greeks, had to leave Turkey as a result of pogroms against them, reducing Turkey’s Greek
population from 120,000 to just a few thousand.
The patriarch also touched on a recent parliamentary question about the reopening of Hagia Sophia as a place for Muslim worship.
“We want [Hagia Sophia] to remain a museum. It served as a Christian church for nearly a millennium.
If it is to be opened for prayers, it should be a Christian church again, since it was established to serve as a church, not as a mosque,” he said.