Moscow, November 26, 2010
The Patriarch related his warm impressions of his visits to Turkey, and expressed his gratefulness that so many Orthodox pilgrims are able now to travel without obstruction to the Christian holy places on Turkish territory. "Judging from the impressions that they bring back with them," the Patriarch said, "it is very important for these people to visit those places. I have received many requests from our bishops and pilgrimage groups in their dioceses for blessings to make similar pilgrimages. I am sure that the flow of religious tourism and pilgrimage to your country will grow, and this will undoubtedly help to deepen the relationships between our peoples."
The Patriarch said that it is important that there is now a religious dimension to already existing culture and economic ties between Russia and Turkey, and that he hopes this will continue.
The Turkish Ambassador replied that His Holiness' visit to Turkey is also warmly remembered. "Our doors are always open to all Russians, including those who make trips of a religious nature. Of course, tourism is important to us, but even more important are personal relationships."
The Patriarch noted that many Russians visit Turkey on vacation, and there also exists a Russian-speaking diaspora in that country. He expressed his hope that these people will have the opportunity to receive spiritual care in Turkey. He sees positive trends, such as the spiritual care of Russia-speakers in Antalia by a priest of the Constantinople Patriarchate who received his education in the St. Petersburg Theological Academy.