ANKARA - Russia regards plans of the opening of the Halki seminary as a positive step, said the newly elected Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill.
Turkey is under pressure from the European Union to reopen the seminary on Heybeliada Island off Istanbul and speculation runs that the Turkish government is readying to open the now-closed school.
The patriarch’s remarks came after talks with Turkey’s head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, Ali Bardakoglu. But early in the day he met with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He said the issue over Halki seminary on Heybeliada did not appear on the agenda of his meeting with Erdoğan.
"It is the first time that a Russian Orthodox patriarch has come to Turkey. We came together with Erdoğan and a religious head. This trip is, in a sense, a visit to the Turkish public not only to Ankara," he said. "The political dialogue and trade relations between our nations are very positive. This will contribute to the inter-religion dialogue."
The head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, meanwhile, said Russia was an epitome country in terms of religious freedoms and the both nations enjoyed common similarities.
"Both countries follow secular principles, for instance," he said. "There are around 20 million Muslims in Russia where there is huge religious freedom."