Kostas Bakoyannis, the mayor of Athens, paid a joint visit, along with Istanbul Metropolitan Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu to the city’s Greek Orthodox Patriarchate on Friday.
The two politicians met with Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew at his headquarters in the Phanar in Istanbul.
Bakoyannis was accompanied by Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Konstantinos Vlasis, as the officials visited the Patriarchal Church of St. George and lit candles there.
The two mayors held a meeting at the Saraçhane, which was followed by a trip together to tour historic sites of the city of Istanbul.
Patriarchate is “A gift of history”
In his remarks, Bakoyannis stated: “I think our common presence here today sends a very strong message. A message with many symbolisms, but also substance.
“A message for yesterday, today and tomorrow. And I especially honors my friend and colleague Ekrem that we are here together.
“It is a blessing for Istanbul to be the non-negotiable seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is a gift of history that strengthens the dialogue of cultures, strengthens interfaith relations and guarantees the peaceful coexistence of peoples.
“Patriarchate is an Ark of love”
“And of course the Patriarchate is an ark of love, hope and strength for all. Greeks and Turks, Christians and Muslims.
“The Patriarchate has been building bridges and tearing down walls for centuries. And it is the duty of all of us to support the Ecumenical Patriarchate not only symbolically, but also in practice.”
Patriarch Bartholomew remarked that “The Patriarchate always sees itself as a bridge of friendship, peace and solidarity,” adding that he approved of the great symbolism of Friday’s joint visit of the mayors.
The Athens mayor’s visit takes place simultaneously with a ceremony to appoint the new Metropolitan of Chalcedon – called Kadıköy in Turkish – who ranks second in the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate hierarchy.
The former Metropolitan, 85-year-old Athanasios Papas, was recently removed from office over his alleged disobedience and disrespect toward the Patriarch, who is the spiritual leader of some 300 million Orthodox Christians all over the globe.
Turkish media have reported that Papas had close ties to Bartholomew’s adversaries, including former Karavriton Metropolitan Ambrosios, who was reported to hold racist views and was said to have publicly insulted the Patriarch.
The former metropolitan, who was a native of Kadıköy, was also said to have had ties to men who are close to Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church, which experienced an ugly split with the Phanar over its public support for a breakaway church in Ukraine.
Visit takes place after year of heightened tensions
Emanuil Adamakis, 68, the Metropolitan of France, was appointed by the Holy Synod in his place.
The visit is taking place after a year of extraordinarily strained ties between Greece and Turkey, after the latter making repeated incursions onto Greek and Cypriot territorial waters and airspace.
Turkey was also angered over Greece’s efforts to form a joint energy initiative with Israel, Egypt and Cyprus.
Bakoyannis is the nephew of the current Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and the son of Dora Mitsotakis Bakoyannis, the former Greek foreign minister and mayor of Athens.