13 March, 2007
Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomeos began a five day visit to Austria on Monday and held talks with President Heinz Fischer and Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer.
During the meetings, the Patriarch ascertained the Austrian political leadership’s particular interest for the implementation and respect of human rights in Turkey and particularly of religious freedoms.
Vartholomeos expounded to his interlocutors the situation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to date and the situation of Christians in Turkey, while both the Austrian president and chancellor also showed interest in Turkey’s European course.
In response to reporters’ questions following his meeting with the Austrian president, the Ecumenical Patriarch noted that “sincerely,” since the Pope’s visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul last November to date, “no specific progress has been made.”
Referring to the fact that in Turkey presidential elections will be held in May and parliamentary elections in November, the Ecumenical Patriarch expressed the hope that after these elections, “there will be and must be more specific steps and greater progress towards the reforms and towards the rapprochement to the European acquis communautaire and the criteria set by the European Union for the candidate countries.”
In statements later to ANA-MPA in Vienna, the Ecumenical Patriarch expressed particular satisfaction over his meetings with President Fischer and Chancellor Gusenbauer because he also ascertained their respect and appreciation towards the Orthodox Church and to Metropolitan of Austria and Exarch of Hungary and Central Europe Michail.
Source: Athens News Agency