ANKARA (Marmara)–The newly elected Istanbul Patriarch Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan led a delegation of lay and religious leaders representing the Armenian community in Istanbul on a visit to Ankara–where he met with Turkish President Suleyman Demirel.
Mutafyan and his delegation received a warm welcome from Turkish officials. In his remarks–Demirel told the patriarch that the Armenian community should not consider itself a minority–adding that the Armenian community had all the rights as every Turkish citizen.
"Defend your rights. All is tied to your approaches. And we will always continue to support you community and don’t forget that this is your country," Demirel said during his meeting with Mutafyan.
The Patriarch also held meetings with Parliament Speaker Hikmet Cetin as well as Turkey’s caretaker prime minister Mesut Yilmaz–with whom Mutafyan discussed several issues related to the Armenian community.
The Patriarch underscored the importance of training and producing a new generation of clerics for the Patriarchate. He told Yilmaz that since by law it was forbidden to establish a monastery in Istanbul–then steps should be taken to include the theological teachings of the Armenian church within the university–where every year students would emerge prepared to undertake religious responsibilities with the Armenian church.
Mutafyan also urged the government to pay more attention in the upkeep and maintenance of churches and other religious establishmen’s–stating that the unkempt condition of the building were a disgrace for the international community–which will be marking the 2000th anniversary of Christianity.
In conclusion of their meeting–Yilmaz presented a gold pen to Mutafyan.
The Patriarch also met with deputy prime minister Bulent Ecevit–who is currently in talks to formulate a new coalition government–following Yilmaz’s resignation.
Ecevit expressed hope that the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan would end swiftly–so that neighborly relations could begin with Armenia.
The Patriarch also met with members of the Turkish cabinet and the Vatican’s ambassador to Turkey.