Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, during the Divine Liturgy of the second Sunday of Lent, in which he officiated on March 24 at the Church of Hagioi Theodoroi of the Community of Vlaga, referred to the occasional difficulties faced by the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Greek expats in Constantinople, and to the struggles they give to overcome them.
In his speech that followed immediately afterwards, Bartholomew welcomed the pilgrims from Greece and abroad, pointing out that their presence on the one hand is reinforcing the Orthodox believers of Constantinople and on the other hand underscores the unity of Greeks.
“We have been living within difficulties, both in the past and in the present. The difficulties of the recent past were very big, they were insurmountable. I remember in ’93, when the tombs of the Greek expats in the cemetery of Neochori, Bosphorus were desecrated, I went on the following Sunday and gave a speech complaining and condemning what had happened. And I said ‘why do we have to go through whatever we go through just because we are of Greek origin and Orthodox Christians in faith? Whom have we hurt, in what way have we harmed our fellow men? We are law-abiding citizens. At least let our dead be in peace in their tombs here, where they are waiting for the Lord’s Second Coming’.”
Then the Ecumenical Patriarch noted, “These difficulties somehow exist today too, when we, Greeks, and the other minorities living here, have been deprived of, for six years now, our self-standing democratic right, to hold elections to renew the governing bodies of our churches and of our other charitable organizations. Isn’t this a flagrant injustice to the non-Muslim inhabitants of Constantinople and of that country? Why should we be subjected to this discrimination?
You, the devout pilgrims from Greece, should wish that God will give us, as Centre of Orthodoxy, the power to respond to our great responsibilities, despite the shrinking of the Greek expats around our Patriarchate, and to be able to be worthy of our ancestors and of the responsibilities with which God and history have charged us.”
The Divine Liturgy was attended by the Consul General Tzortzina Sultanopoulou of Greece in Constantinople and a number of believers.