Nikolaos Stelya / DUVAR
Archbishop Elpidophoros Lambriniadis, the head of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, has received the backlash of nationalist fractions in Greece and Greek Cyprus for his attendance to the inauguration of the Turkish House (“Türkevi” in Turkish) in New York City on Sept. 20.
The event was presided over by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and also saw the attendance of Turkish Cypriot leader Ersin Tatar.
Some Greeks and Greek Cypriots accused Elpidophoros of “being an instrument to the Erdoğan government's propaganda in a period when Ankara is adopting a negative stance with regards to the Cyprus issue.”
The nationalist fractions alleged that Elpidophoros, a Turkish citizen, was working closely with the Turkish government to cement his position for the future elections of the Ecumenical Patriarch.
Greek Cypriot nationalists also reacted against Elpidophoros for appearing in the same photograph with Tatar during the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
A a result of the growing backlash, Greek Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades canceled his meeting with Elpidophoros.
Greek media outlets alleged that Greek Prime Minister Kyriacos Mitsotakis would also cancel his meeting with Elpidophoros, but this report has not been confirmed by Mitsotakis' office.
The Greek premier is expected to meet with Elpidophoros on Sept. 24 in New York City.
In a message on social media after the diplomatic crisis, Elpidophoros expressed the importance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the reopening of the Halki Theological School and the rights of religious minorities in Turkey.
I congratulated Pres. Erdogan on the opening of the Turkevi Center, together with UN SG Guterres. As always I insist on the importance of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the re-opening of the Halki Theological School, and supporting the rights of religious minorities of Turkey.— Elpidophoros (@Elpidophoros) September 20, 2021
Elpidophoros was and raised in the Bakırköy district of Istanbul. Before being chosen in 2019 to lead all the Orthodox and Greek congregation in the U.S., he served as the principal of the closed Halki Seminary on Heybeliada, an island off Istanbul's coast, and also as the Metropolitan of Bursa.