NEW YORK – Archbishop Demetrios of America met on Friday with the Prime Minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during the visit of the Prime Minister to New York City on the occasion of the opening session of the United Nations. In a candid meeting which lasted 45 minutes, the Archbishop, Exarch of the Ecumenical Throne in America, thanked the Prime Minister on behalf of the Greek Orthodox Church of America, for certain favorable actions which the Turkish Government has taken involving the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Namely, the recent decision to return properties owned by minorities in Turkey, the implementation of a process by which Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Patriarchate can apply for Turkish citizenship, thus creating a larger electoral body for Patriarchal elections, the ability afforded to the Ecumenical Patriarch to conduct religious services at various historic churches and monasteries in Asia Minor and Pontus, most recently at Panagia Soumela near Trabzon on the Black Sea, and finally the return of the Orphanage on the Princess Islands.
In addition, the Archbishop reiterated to the Prime Minister the long-standing request of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to re-open the Theological School of Halki which has been closed for 40 years. In the discussion that followed, the Prime Minister thanked the Archbishop for his visit and assured him that the Government will continue to address issues concerning the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of the other minorities in Turkey.
Accompanying the Archbishop during the meeting with the Prime Minister were Mr. Michael Jaharis, Vice-Chair of the Archdiocesan Council, Dr. Anthony Limberakis, Commander of the Order of St. Andrew, Mr. John Catsimatidis, Chairman of the Religious Freedom Committee of the Order of St. Andrew, Mr. Dennis Mehiel a member of that Committee and Rev. Fr. Alexander Karloutsos, Assistant to the Archbishop for Public Affairs.