Archbishop Elpidophoros apologized on Thursday for the controversy he caused in Greece and Cyprus with his presence at the ceremony for the opening of the Turkevi Center (Turkish House) earlier this week.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan presided over the ceremony, held on Monday in New York City, while Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar was also present.
“I sincerely regret the pain I inadvertently caused to my Cypriot and Greek-American brothers,” the Archbishop said on Twitter.
The message by Archbishop Elpidophoros is as follows:
As a Greek from Constantinople, my family and I have experienced the terrible consequences of the uprooting from our ancestral homes, like many of my compatriots, but also those from Imvros and Tenedos, due to another escalation of the Cyprus issue in the 70’s.
I have grown up with this pain, which is why I understand the pain of our Cypriot brothers, as well as their feelings and reactions. I consider them expressions of pain of people who lost everything: property, homelands, dreams, family, relatives.
So I want to declare to everyone that my presence at Monday’s event could never be a recognition of a calamity, a refugee, an occupation.
My presence has always had the same constant orientation: honest and courageous dialogue, for a future with peace and protection of religious freedom.
We are all united in defending our national interests, each in his own way and role. But united, committed to the same goal.
I sincerely regret the pain I inadvertently caused to my Cypriot and Greek-American brothers, especially to my beloved flock.
I pray for a just and lasting solution to be found in the martyrdom of Cyprus, as the Cypriot people expect it, based on international law and the protection of human rights, in accordance with UN resolutions, and I work for this purpose.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America stands for a century next to Hellenism everywhere, defending its expectations. Our unity is responsibility.
Λυπάμαι ειλικρινά για την οδύνη που άθελά μου προκάλεσα σε Κύπριους και Ελληνοαμερικανούς αδελφούς μου, ιδιαίτερα στο αγαπημένο μου ποίμνιο. 6/8
— Elpidophoros (@Elpidophoros) September 23, 2021
Displeasure in Cyprus and Greece over Elpidophoros’ actions
On Tuesday, the President of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiades, cancelled a scheduled meeting with Archbishop Elpidophoros in New York.
According to state broadcaster CyBC, the official reason given for the cancellation of the meeting was Anastasiades’ tight schedule, but reports said it was actually because the Archbishop had attended the opening of the Turkevi Center.
There were also reports that Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis also cancelled a scheduled meeting with Archbishop Elpidophoros in New York on Friday. Mitsotakis, like Anastasiades, is in New York for the 76th UN General Assembly.
Greek government sources suggested that the reason for the cancellation was a scheduling conflict after the addition of a meeting with the Editorial Board of the Wall Street Journal to the Prime Minister’s diary.
However, Athens had expressed irritation over Elpidophoros’ presence. Government spokesman Giannis Oikonomou, said on Thursday: “We were disturbed by the actions of the Archbishop. The Greek government expresses its dissatisfaction.”
On Friday it emerged that Mitsotakis will finally meet with Elpidophoros at UN headquarters, as Greece is keen to put an end to the episode.
The Turkevi Center, which will become the hub of Turkish culture in the US, will also house the UN’s permanent mission for Turkey and the Turkish Consulate General.