Patriarch Receives French Speaker

Patriarch Receives President of French National Assembly


ISTANBUL (05/02/2005) – His Beatitude Mesrob II, Armenian Patriarch of
Istanbul and All Turkey, received His Excellency Mr. Jean-Louis Debré,
the President of the French National Assembly, on 4 February 2005,
Friday, at 19:30 hours, in the audience room of the Armenian
Patriarchate, Istanbul, Turkey. Accompanying the President were the
leaders of the French Opposition and Mr. Jean-Christophe Peaucelle, the
French Consul General in Istanbul.

The Patriarch greeted Mr. Debré as follows: `It is indeed a great honour
and pleasure to receive in our Patriarchate the President of the French
National Assembly. As one of the four hierarchical sees of the worldwide
Armenian Church, the Patriarchal See of Istanbul, continues to be a
witness to the Christian Armenian heritage, faith and culture since the
year 1461.

Our Patriarchate’s ties with the Republic of France are close. In fact,
the last Cilician Armenian King, Leo VI Lusignan, is buried in the
Cathedral of St. Denis in Paris. Most of the Armenians living in France
today also have their family roots in Anatolia.

Anatolia became the stage for tragic events ninety years ago. It is a
fact that hundreds of thousands of Armenian citizens lost their lives,
and of the Armenian population in the Ottoman Empire, only a small
proportion was saved from extinction. Not only were lives lost, but also
a local culture was uprooted from its natural milieu.

Both Turks and Armenians must now face their common history and must
look forward to a peaceful coexistence in the present and future world.
God has brought together the Turkish and Armenian peoples within the
same geographical area, as very close neighbours, and even as members
sometimes of the same family, whether in Anatolia or in the Caucasus.
All those concerned need to understand that there is no alternative but
to live in peace and tolerance with each other, and to expend every
effort in this direction.

This is why, together with all the other non-Moslem minorities in
Turkey, our Patriarchal See and the Turkish Armenian community support
the accession of Turkey into the European Union. As citizens of Turkey
we support this process, since all the laws of our country will thus be
upgraded; as non-Moslem minorities we support the process, since it will
give us equal opportunity before the law; as people of Armenian descent
we support the process, because it might bring the long-awaited peace
not only between Turkey and Armenia, but also amongst all countries in
the region.

It is with these sentiments, that I welcome you once again, reminded of
the words of the Gospel: ˜Peace on earth and good will amongst men of
good will! ”

Thanking the Patriarch for his welcoming remarks, Mr. Debré replied that
the French delegation was interested in whether Moslems and non-Moslems
enjoy equal opportunity in Turkey, which aspires to become an EU member.
Where are the non-Moslem clerics trained? Do ethno-religious minorities,
and also minorities not covered by the Lausanne Treaty, enjoy cultural
prerogatives? Are human rights respected, including those of women,
children and the minorities? How do the people of Turkey regard the
non-Moslems within and without Turkey? These, Mr. Debré said, were the
issues European parliamentarians were preoccupied with.

Patriarch Mesrob replied that the majority of Turkish citizens support
the membership of Turkey into the EU, knowing well that such an
integration presupposes much change in mentality and the legal system.
Many important reforms have been passed through the Turkish National
Assembly and once a full implementation is realised undoubtedly many
changes will occur in the country. `These are our thoughts and
expectations,’ the Patriarch said.

Mr. Debré, whose visit lasted about 45 minutes, thanked the Patriarch
for his reception, signed the book of honour and took leave of the
Patriarchal See together with the other members of the French National