The public part of the visit of Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras to Constantinople and the Halki Seminary undoubtedly produced historical moments.
There were touching photos of the Greek Prime Minister in Hagia Sophia, with Turkish officials as his tour guides in this Byzantine masterpiece and pan-Christian symbol. He followed them with a serious, thoughtful look on his face, perhaps pondering Hellenism’s losses…It was the same at the Halki Seminary, the one-time brilliant nursery of Christianity and Hellenism, unacceptably closed by a Turkish firman in 1971.
There, the Prime Minister of Greece stood reverently, as was appropriate, during the Divine Liturgy at the Church of the Holy Trinity, next to the Ecumenical Patriarch, again, very reverently. He visited the School’s priceless Library and looked at one of its volumes with interest.
He did all the things protocol required. Exchanging gifts, as tradition demanded, with the Patriarch. Being photographed with his entourage – including the Greek Minister of Education – and the patriarchal escort on the stairs of the entrance to the impressive building of the Seminary.
Making a statement that he can imagine the School re-opening and being visited with his “new friend”, President Erdogan.
Truly memorable moments: The Prime Minister of Greece showing so much reverence, so much interest and commitment to our religion, to our Church.
With such displays of devotion, he might have been taken for a high cleric himself.
I wish things were as they seem, I really do – but they are not.
Mr. Tsipras “put on” his rasa (vestments) for political reasons. To reach out to critical center-right voters in Greece.
To create the impression that he has forgotten his old ideology. He is now a man of the center, “one of us.” Even on the subject of the Church.
But he is not convincing.
He did not convince us because he is the same Alexis Tsipras who was the first Prime Minister in the history of Greece to take his oath of office without swearing on the bible.
And he is the same prime minister whose government is trying to take religion out of the schools. And he is the same prime minister who is trying to move clergy salaries from one fund to another so he can claim he achieved the separation of Church and State.
And the words he said about re-opening the School sounded good. However he did not say a word when, during their statements to the press, Erdogan bound up the Halki issue with a thousand ropes to the subject of the selection of muftis in the Thrace province of Greece .
And last, but not least: What a nice photo it was– showing the Prime Minister and the Patriarch chatting at the head of a magnificent table in an great room of the School! But the question is: Did they say anything about the Greeks abroad?
Did they say anything about the Greek-American community – our Church here, and its issues?