08/14/2007, 00.00
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Ankara cancels Istanbul visit by archbishop of Cyprus

It is the second time in four months the visit is cancelled. Chrysostomos and the ecumenical patriarch were set to meet in May for strictly religious purposes. Religious minorities are concerned. Archbishop of Cyprus says: “Ankara has shown its real face.”

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – For the second time in four months, Ankara has cancelled a visit by the new Greek-Orthodox archbishop of Cyprus, Chrysostomos, to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, set for August 17 to the 21. The Turkish government cancelled the strictly religious visit for the first time in May. At the time the authorities justified their action saying that it might have political consequences on the electoral campaign. But the latest decision is worrying minority communities very much since outgoing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a strong supporter of Turkey’s membership in the European Union and hence a guarantor of religious minority rights in the country, won a victory in the July elections.

Interviewed by a Greek radio station, Chrysostomos said that “Turkey has the right to prevent anyone from entering into its territory despite those, like us, who want to believe that it wishes to show a democratic and liberal face, not only in Europe but also in the rest of the world.” With this decision however “the government in Ankara has shown its real face.”

Although “it was initially felt that it was better not to go any further,” the archbishop announced instead his “intention to send a letter to the Holy See and the World Council of Churches to inform them of what has happened.” Hopefully, this way it will “be possible to make the international community aware of the unreliability of the Turkish government in matters of rights.”

The archbishop of Cyprus also announced that he would meet the ecumenical patriarch at another time and place to express his “solidarity” and thank him “for his contribution to solving some of the many problems that have risen within the Greek-Orthodox Church.”

Chrysostomos reiterated that there “are no differences between Greek-Orthodox [Cypriots] and their Muslim Turkish-Cypriot brothers.” The real problem lies “in Ankara’s meddling which has blocked every attempt to integrate the two communities on the basis of mutual respect.” (NT)

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