By Hagop Vartivarian
Life in the patriarchate of the supreme heads of the Orthodox Church in Istanbul was never easy during the past few decades, especially with the closing of the Halki Seminary in Heybeliada in 1971.
The ecumenical Greek patriarch is the leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox, who live in Greece, the Balkan countries and Russia.
After the Roman Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church is the most influential, and presently, although its patriarch lives abased in his shell, under the thumb of the Republic of Turkey, he still remains rich with the church’s past glory going back 1,700 years.
Coverage by American media of the minorities living in Turkey — the Armenians, Greeks, Assyrians/Syriacs, Kurds, Alevis, etc. — had traditionally been quite skimpy. However, for the past year or so, as a consequence of Turkey’s foreign policy, whereby a chill has already become palpable in relations with Israel, oddly enough, the press and television stations in the US have widely expanded their coverage of these minorities, in an attempt to convey a message to this country’s erstwhile and longtime ally.
Then, the well-known journalist Bob Simon had a rather frank interview/meeting with the ecumenical patriarch Bartholomew at the patriarchate, which was broadcast on “60 Minutes” by CBS, America’s most-watched television network, last Sunday [December 19]. The viewers of the program and, subsequently, those who read about the interview in the papers, were veritably stunned by the patriarch’s forthright answers.