EU minister receives head of the Armenian Patriarchate in Turkey
ISTANBUL – Anadolu Agency
The acting head of the Armenian Patriarchate in Turkey, Aram Ateşyan (L) describe the informal meeting with Minister of EU Affairs Egemen Bağış as a 'friendship visit.' AA photoThe Turkish Minister of EU Affairs Egemen Bağış received in Istanbul on Sept. 14 the acting head of the Armenian Patriarchate in Turkey, Aram Ateşyan, who conducted last week the ceremonies of the annual Divine Liturgy at the Akdamar Armenian Church in the eastern province of Van.
Ateşyan, who was delegated the office following the withdrawal of Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan from his duties in 2008 due to illness, told reporters that in the last 10 years minorities have witnessed big changes in the positive direction.
“We have obtained more religious freedom. The properties, the assets that have been confiscated were returned… I came to say that within the large space opened for our schools and worship places, we are not secondary citizens anymore and will not be such in the future,” Ateşyan said, expressing his happiness at making an official visit to his hometown Silvan in the southeastern Diyarbakır province last week.
“I had left Silvan with tears. I have returned with a smile,” he said.
For his part, Bağış explained that he met Ateşyan for the first time three years ago during a visit to Akdamar with the ambassadors of the EU member countries. “I had called Mr. [Ateşyan] and requested him to kindly assign someone as I did not want to say the wrong things when ambassadors asked questions during the visit. ‘If my country’s minister accompanies personally foreign ambassadors, then I will come myself,’ he had said,” Bağış told reporters.
Bağış said that he wanted to hear about Ateşyan’s official trip to his homeland. “He has witnessed the changes in the region. I was very touched when he said that he left there with tears, but returned with joy,” he added.
During his trip in southeastern Turkey, Ateşyan conducted a mass at Diyarbakır’s Surp Giragos Church, attended by Mayor Osman Baydemir and the famous writer of Armenian origin, Mıgırdıç Margosyan.
The whole region was inhabited by a large Armenian community before the massacres and deportations of 1915.