To the Editor:
Archbishop Elpidophoros’ attendance at the inauguration of the ‘Turkish House’ has provoked negative, even hostile, criticism from multiple federations, societies, article writers, and letters to the editors. His action was called a serious mistake, caused disappointment, and is considered to be an example of a lack of judgment, if not a betrayal. Some have recommended that he engage in self-assessment to avoid similar errors in the future and even to resign from his position and to “go back where he has come from.”
Initially, when I heard about his attendance, I thought that it was a mistake. But, as I thought about it, I have come to another point of view.
The Archbishop is a religious leader but at the same time, he functions as an unofficial diplomat. Leaders meet each other, they shake hands, take pictures together, they try to be amiable, even if they have serious disagreements or take hostile positions. Even in a period of war, before each battle, they meet and talk to each other. The essence is that communication creates bridges.
In this case, the Archbishop received an invitation to attend a civil peaceful celebration. It was not a march to demonstrate military power. It was a courteous diplomatic act on the part of Turkey. What was the option? To deny the invitation, by not going, in protest of multiple Turkish violations? But this (protest) was already done before and it could be made stronger again, in person, if the opportunity arose. The logical decision was to go.
I see an Archbishop who, through body language, gave this message to the Turks:
Turkish people, I am happy for your progress and share your happiness. I hope your house will be an institution of peaceful thoughts and civil acts. I attend your celebration representing Christianity and Hellenism, which I represent and for which I fight.
Now, how the Turks will perceive this act is a different subject. The essence is that this act of Archbishop created a bridge, and as such it has greater probability to produce a positive outcome in our interactions with the Turks.
If this point of view will end up being improper or naïve, the future will decide. For the present, at least, let’s not cut off his head.
George C. Andrinopoulos, MD., FACOG