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Press conference of HH. Karekin II of June 25 in Istanbul

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 PostPosted: Sat Jul 01, 2006 7:02 am    Post subject: Press conference of HH. Karekin II of June 25 in Istanbul Reply with quote Back to top

ETCHMIADZIN, JUNE 29, NOYAN TAPAN - ARMENIANS TODAY. NT was submitted a transcript of the press conference by Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II to Turkish reporters at the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople on June 25. The transcript is presented below:

The moderator of the press conference was Ms. Luiz Bakar, spokesman for the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople. His Beatitude Archbishop Mesrob Mutafian, Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople introduced His Holiness.

His Beatitude Mesrob Mutafian: Welcome, dear friends. His Holiness has allocated one half hour from his itinerary for today to be with you. He is here on a pontifical visit upon the joint invitation of the Greek Patriarch and the Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople. He will be with us until June 27. Prior to his visit, a number of strange news stories appeared in various media and news outlets, which caused us amazement. The articles had stated that the Armenian community and the Patriarchate were anxious with this visit; however there was no such unease in the community. Up until this point, the visit has been progressing as planned. The first two days of the visit, the Catholicos was the guest of the Greek Patriarch, according to their itinerary; thereafter we visited Armenian churches and the sites and museums of Istanbul together. Since our time is limited, I request that there be no repetitions of questions. You may now ask any questions which you desire.

Question: Your Holiness, you are here as the guest of the Greek Patriarch. He is making efforts directed at bringing the two Churches closer. What is your opinion on this and what will be the steps you implement?

His Holiness Karekin II: We are visiting Constantinople upon the invitation of the Armenian Patriarch and the Greek Ecumenical Patriarch. We have come on a pontifical visit to the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople and a fraternal visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. As part of our visit (with the Ecumenical Patriarch), there were meetings between the clergy of our Churches, where we discussed the theological and dogmatic issues about which there has been ongoing dialogue for quite a long time; meetings have occurred and will continue to take place. The purpose of our visit to the Ecumenical Patriarch was the reinforcement and strengthening of the brotherly ties between our sister Churches, as well as the continuation of the existing collaboration between our Churches with a new spirit and new warmth.

Question: During your meeting with the Governor of Istanbul, you stated that you are pleased with the regular (airline) flights between Yerevan and Istanbul, however similar steps must continue. What do mean by "steps"?

His Holiness Karekin II: We expressed our satisfaction that Yerevan-Istanbul flights occur regularly. As you are aware, our country - the Republic of Armenia - is inclined to improve relations with Turkey, and we are certain that as a result (of those improved relations) we will find solutions. We shall be able to concurrently search for and find solutions to the issues that exist in the relationship between our two peoples, one example being the issue of the Genocide, of which you are aware.

Question: As you just mentioned, the issue of the Genocide exists between Turkey and Armenia. We, meaning the opinion of Turkish society, are not limited by the Armenians of Armenia. We see three groups of Armenians: Diaspora, Armenians of Turkey, and Armenia. What are your thoughts? During these deliberations, whom must Turkey consider? And the Armenians, whom do they consider - the Turkish government or...? As you know, this issue is being discussed in certain Turkish intellectual circles. In different universities, specifically the University of Bilgi, this issue has been discussed during different symposia where the Armenian Patriarch Mutafian was also present. Taking the aforementioned into consideration, I want to ask two questions: Who must represent the Turkish and Armenian sides and what steps must be taken? And the second question, how do you evaluate the atmosphere of democratic debate in Turkey?

His Holiness Karekin II: We are one people; dispersed throughout the world. However, we are a people that have statehood. And naturally, the Republic of Turkey can discuss these issues and find solutions with the Republic of Armenia. For 90 years, the issue of the Genocide has been researched by the academics of the world, and manifold volumes have been written. For our people, the Genocide is not a matter for research - it is a reality of fact that happened, which must be recognized. That (recognition) is naturally the desired option, but a negative position can also be taken on this issue.

If academic conferences in Turkey are intended to present the actuality of the Genocide to Turkish society, then it shall be possible to welcome them. If they are politically motivated, to further the position of denial, naturally that won't have a positive influence on resolving this issue. We are satisfied to see that in the life of Turkish society, within democratization processes, people are speaking and reflecting on the issue of the Genocide during the First World War to a certain extent.

Question: During his meeting with the governor of Istanbul, the Catholicos stated, "A certain amount of progress is noticeable in Turkish society. If necessary steps are taken, everything can be much better." These words were translated by (Armenian Patriarch) Mutafian. What is lacking in the life of Turkish society and what did you have in mind?

His Holiness Karekin II: During our conversation with the governor, we have said that we are pleased, that in the life of ethnic and religious minorities, as it relates to the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate, some concerns are receiving their positive solutions. We can see that for many decades, it was impossible to renovate the (headquarters of the) Patriarchate, and today we see it restored. Permission has been granted, and churches are being repaired. However, we noted that there are a certain number of other concerns, the resolution of which would benefit the greater strengthening of community life. For example, among these issues are property rights and organizational matters for educational activities.

Question: The Catholicos stated that the two states must discuss the issue of the Genocide. However in recent times, discussions were held in Turkey when two Armenians of Turkey participated, among them Hrant Dink. The law which was being debated in France, whereby the deniers of the Genocide would be held criminally liable, was opposed by nine Turkish intellectuals who sent a letter to France. They asserted that expressing a viewpoint about the Genocide must not have consequences. This is one example of the fact that Turkey and Armenia are not alone in debating this issue, and that there are other states, which make decisions in their parliaments about the Genocide. In this regard, the issue assumed an international character. What is your opinion? Is it correct for other states to be drawn into this matter?

His Holiness Karekin II: Genocide against any nation is not limited to the life or borders of one people. Genocide does not recognize ethnicity. Genocide envelopes all of mankind. And for that reason, when similar actions are being committed in any corner of the world, states and nations raise their voices in condemnation, to prevent similar incidents in the life of mankind. Only in this manner will it be possible to keep mankind free from similar tragedies.

Regarding the first part of the question, that should only Turkey and Armenia be concerned with this issue, we wish to further clarify that the Armenian people have statehood. But the issue concerns all Armenians. Armenians dispersed throughout the world. Every single individual Armenian. However the body that represents the rights of the nation, and guarantees those rights, obviously, is the state.

Question: The Catholicos says that the issue of the Genocide for Armenian society is not one that needs research, rather it is reality. Does this position not obstruct the resolution of this issue, perhaps, since the Turkish side continues to deny the Genocide? In other words, is it not possible to study the Genocide?

His Holiness Karekin II: Obviously, if Turkey denies (the Genocide), it is impossible to resolve this issue. If the facts are present, then what's the point in discussing the necessity to debate the facts? There must be the will to record, confirm and accept the facts.

Question: What do you propose as a way of resolving this issue?

His Holiness Karekin II: We believe that as many states and countries have done, Turkey also has the capability to conduct the corresponding studies, and add its name to that list of many countries, by recognizing the Armenian Genocide. Armenia has never held similar deliberations with any of the other countries who have recognized and condemned the Armenian Genocide. Because the facts exist, they can be studied, and based upon those facts, a decision and position can be made. This cannot be or be proposed to be an issue which necessitates discussions.

Question: You say that to keep humanity free from the repetition of similar sorrows, that they must be studied and accepted. But have you ever made a statement regarding the events taking place in Iraq, which is very close to both Turkey and Armenia? As you are aware, the intervention of the United States of America is present there. What do you think about this, and what are you doing about it?

His Holiness Karekin II: We as a Church, express our voice of indignation on every occasion when a hand is raised against the greatest treasure of God's creation - human life.

Question: You visited the seminary on the Island of Halki. What are you thoughts, since that seminary is not operating at present?

His Holiness Karekin II: I am pleased with the process of democratization which is taking place today in the Republic of Turkey. And I am certain that in time, all those issues will find their positive solutions.

Question: Did you like Istanbul?

His Holiness Karekin II: We have not had the opportunity to see Istanbul. But in these past few days, we mentioned in our remarks that in Istanbul, there are many valuable and beautiful buildings, churches, etc. However, the most valuable, the most beautiful for me is our people, our community, for whom we are conducting our Pontifical Visit. Having this as our primary concern, naturally, we have allocated all of our time for the strengthening of the spiritual life of our people and to the work of reinforcing their faith. Nevertheless, I am certain that another opportunity will be created, and we shall be able to have the necessary amount of time to see the sights of Istanbul. For example, yesterday, we were able to visit the Dolmabahce palace museum and the Hagia Sophia, which greatly impressed us.

Question: There is a report that you desired to pray when at the Hagia Sophia, but were prohibited from doing so.

His Holiness Karekin II: We are not aware of any such occurrence.

Question: From the first day of your visit, there have been protest demonstrations. What do you think about this?

His Holiness Karekin II: The protest demonstrations in no way affected neither our mood nor our mission. We would prefer that there be no place for similar demonstrations in the relationship between our two peoples. We are destined to live side by side as neighbors, and therefore it is necessary to cultivate, educate and nurture appropriate relationships between neighboring peoples. I am convinced that in my next trip, we won't see similar demonstrations or expressions. And even if there are protests such as these, we must understand that we still have work to do, both of us together, to exclude similar occurrences.

Question: During the Eurovision competition, Turkey gave 10 points to Armenia. How do you evaluate this fact?

His Holiness Karekin II: We see nothing negative in this.

Question: Is this perhaps a step forward on the part of Turkey?

His Holiness Karekin II: Of course, it is a step, which must be positively assessed. God willing, that this positive course leads us to the resolution of the fundamental issue.

Question: Although your visit was not "official" in nature, you were received by the governor of Istanbul. An occurrence such has this has not happened since 1961. What do you think about this? Do you asses this as a positive step? Were there any other similar offers? If yes, then for what reason did they not occur?

His Holiness Karekin II: We recognize our meeting with the governor as a display of his appreciation for the Armenian community, and their important contributions and service to the life of Turkish society. We have not had nor do we have any objections to meeting with any state official, whether the suggestion is made by our community or by any other entity. There was the concept, at one time, to organize a meeting with the religious leader of Turkey, but it became unfeasible to bring it to fruition. The reasons being that the congestion of our itinerary for this trip did not provide the opportunity.

We express our thanks for this meeting and for such an open discussion. We wish you all the best.
Sarkis Shahinian
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