Greek Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomeos criticized Monday U.S. President Donald Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital, saying the patriarchate supports the continuation of the status-quo in Jerusalem.
Addressing students at Istanbul Greek schools after the Christmas ceremony at the Fener Greek Patriarchate, Bartholomeos said that there are enough problems in the Middle East already, and it was unnecessary to add new ones in recent period.
"In my recent visit to Patriarch Theophilos of Jerusalem, I have conveyed my absolute view and the Patriarchate's stance on the preservation of the status-quo in the holy city of Jerusalem that is wanted to be changed with the recent decision. All Christians in Jerusalem, not just the Orthodox, but also Catholics and Armenians, share the same view," Patriarch Bartholomeos said.
Saying that they have been in touch with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas for years regarding the festivals of Muslims and Christians, Bartholomeos said that he received an official letter from Abbas the previous day on the occasion of the Christmas and the New Year. "In my reply letter, I conveyed our wish for 2018 to be the year of calm and peace for the people of Palestine who have been tested with all these difficulties, subjected to injustice and lost their loved ones," the patriarch added.
Noting that children are reminiscent of heaven, Bartholomeos said: "Because we see calm, tranquility, innocence and peace in children's eyes. And now I have you before me and while my contact with many of the young people in our community is present, these thoughts pass through my mind. I wonder how many children in the world and especially in the Middle East, Christian or non-Christian, are living in non-peaceful, insecure, conflict environments, deprived of medicine, milk or toys? Mothers and fathers impoverished by conflicts and wars… People who were forced to abandon their homeland, ending up in the waters of the Aegean, Mediterranean. All of these send us a message concerning our civilization. Our level of civilization is really high. But if our civilization cannot succeed to become more humane and more conscientious, it could not deserve to be called as 'civilization'."
In addition to Patriarch Bartholomeos, the highest spiritual leader of the Orthodox Church, Pope Francis had also criticized Trump's decision, which was made public on Dec. 6. Egypt's Coptic Church head Pope Tawadros II also protested Trump's move, canceling a meeting with U.S. Vice President Mike Pence in Cairo scheduled for late December.