GOARCH - April 3, 1998

Archbishop Spyridon's Statement
on the Desecration of the Cemetery in Istanbul

Upon learning of the desecration of the cemetery in the Kurtulus region of Istanbul where over 70 graves were desecrated and bones were thrown about just days ago, His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon made the following statement:

I am shaken and very concerned regarding the recent desecration of over 70 Greek Orthodox graves in Istanbul, Turkey. In the very recent past the compound of the Ecumenical Patriarchate has been bombed, resulting in casualties and property damage, a church was broken into and a sexton was murdered, and now even those who lie in the tombs have been attacked, yet another time.

As a Christian leader, I call to all people that love, reconciliation and peace must be our one heartfelt resolve. We must do everything in our power to always strive for better understanding between people and cultures so that we may live in peace with one another.

At the same time, though, the violent attacks perpetrated upon the Greek Orthodox Christian minority living in Istanbul must be brought to the attention of all people everywhere who are concerned about the basic issues of human rights, religious freedom and the inalienable dignity of every human being. We are not dealing with political issues or political opinions in cases such as these. We are being confronted in a very dramatic and unfortunately violent way with events which show a complete lack of basic human respect.

During these days, just prior to Easter when we see Christ Resurrected from the dead and the grave become the fountain of life, I can only feel pain in my heart when I hear that the bones of our fathers and mothers have been taken from their place of repose and their peace is being shattered.

Do not those who rest in the tombs somehow share in the silent vigil of the Resurrected Lord? Do not those who rest beneath the earth deserve to be respected as they await the glory which is to come?

And finally, how can anyone who lives and breathes be offended by their peaceful silence?

Let us come together in the dark shadow of these recent events in order to walk together, step by step, with all people, of all cultures and religious backgrounds into the dawn of a new day where human dignity and religious freedom are fully respected and honored.

  April 3, 1998 ]