"We were born in this country, and will die here. We cannot be against it."
Saying that the ecumenical status of the Greek Orthodox church in Istanbul was not a political issue, Bartholomeus noted: "Even if they offered us a position like what the Vatican enjoys, we would refuse it. Because this does not fit with the religious structure of the Orthodox faith." Speaking about suggestions if he were called the "ecumenical" leader of the Greek Orthodox world, this could at some point be used against Turkey, Bartholomeus said "We were born in this country, and we will die in this country. It is impossible for us to be against this country. Neither do we accept the position of second class citizen in this country."
Deputy leader of the Justice and Development (AKP) Party, Saban Disli, who was present at the conference, responded to some of what Patriarch Bartholomeus had to say:
"They may have called your position "ecumenical leader" since the 6th century. The 1924 Lausanne Treaty is clear. The Patriarchate is the religious leader of the Orthodox people living in Istanbul. The Patriarchate is treated fairly as other organizations are in Turkey. In Turkey we also used to have the Seyh-ul Islam, but now we have the Department of Religious Affairs."
Patriarch Bartholomeus and AKP representative Disli also clashed on the question of whether a monastery could be opened on Heybeliada off of Istanbul, with Disli saying "Turkey is a secular country. If you open that school today, tomorrow someone else will try to open another relfgious school."