New York, September 24, 2021
“I sincerely regret the pain I inadvertently caused to my Cypriot and Greek American brothers” said in a statement yesterday regarding his presence at the opening of the Turkevi Center in New York on Monday.
The Center is home to both Turkey and Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus’ permanent mission to the UN. Besides the Archbishop, the opening ceremony was attended by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and Ersin Tatar, head of the so-called “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” which especially angered Greeks and Cypriots.
In response, President Nicos Anastasiades of Cyprus canceled his meeting with the Archbishop on Tuesday, and Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis of Greece strongly considered canceling his meeting with the hierarch on Friday, though in the end he decided to go ahead with it.
In his statement in response, Abp. Elpidophoros emphasizes that his presence “could never be the recognition of a calamity … an occupation.”
His statement reads in full:
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 of Imbros and Tenedos, due to another escalation of the Cyprus issue in the ’70s. 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 their expressions of the 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 the recognition of a calamity, the status of 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 that a just and sustainable solution is found in martyred Cyprus, as the Cypriot people expect it, based on international law and the protection of human rights, as per the UN resolutions, and I am working towards this end.
The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America has stood for a century next to Hellenism everywhere, defending its aspirations. Our unity is my ministry and my obligation.