At the end of his visit to Turkey, German President Christian Wulff took positive stock of his visit. Wulff told journalists in Istanbul on Friday that he had seen a lot of progress, but of course he had also seen shortcomings. But there was "a great openness to talk about critical things as well". He had noted a "great agreement with the political leadership" of the country.
President Christian Wulff entered the Patriarchate of Constantinople through the side entrance – as all visitors must do: The main gate has been welded shut ever since Patriarch Gregorius V. was hanged in it by the Ottomans in 1821. "Crucified" is how he sometimes feels in Turkey, also complained the current holder of that office, Patriarch Bartholomew I., as recently as last year. During the discussion with Wulff the honorary head of the world orthodoxy struck on Friday however more confident tones. He shares the German president's optimism about the future of interreligious understanding, Bartholomew I said.
Wulff was impressed by his meeting with the patriarch. He had with Bartholomew I. "had a good conversation about the situation of the churches in Germany and here in Turkey," the German president said afterwards. "I have great hope that we will advance the dialogue of the world religions." He believes "that we are on a good path".
Thanks to Deutschla
The Patriarch expressly thanked the President of Germany and Germany for the support given to the Greek Orthodox Church in Germany. Metropolitan Augoustinos of Germany had traveled especially from Bonn to guide Wulff through the Patriarchate Church and to discuss the conversation with Bartholomew I. to interpret. The patriarch and the German metropolitan know each other well – they attended together the seminary of Halki, which Augoustinos in 1960 and Bartholomew I. concluded a year later.
However, the future of the seminary, which has been closed for almost 40 years, was not mentioned at the press conference of the president and patriarch, where no questions were allowed either. Behind closed doors, however, both are likely to have spoken about it.
Wulff had expressed optimism after his political talks in Ankara at the beginning of the week that the reopening of the priest school would not be long in coming.
And even the Patriarchate has recently become optimistic on this ie, especially since the Turkish government naturalized a number of metropolitans from Greece and the USA to ensure succession to the patriarchal throne. For the patriarch of Constantinople must be a Turk since the founding of the republic 80 years ago – a state condition for the patriarchate to remain in Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, where it has been since
1.700 years resident. There have also been positive signals about the reopening of Chalki.
Not yet at the destination
During his trip, Wulff repeatedly called for a strengthening of religious freedom for Christian minorities in Turkey – and sent a clear signal in this regard with his visit to Tarsus, the birthplace of the Apostle Paul. There, he attended an ecumenical service, met representatives of the country's Christian churches, and then summed up that Turkey was "heading in the right direction" on the ie of religious freedom, but had not yet reached its goal.
Overall, Wulff drew a positive balance at the end of his trip: He had seen a lot of progress, but of course also deficits. But there was "a great openness to talk about critical things as well". That the state visit was strongly marked by religion(s) was also evident on the closing day. After his conversation with Bartholomew I. Wulff then visited the Blue Mosque and the Hagia Sophia.