“I regularly get reports of horrible crimes that are committed there against Christians, especially in northern Iraq. I have visited those places and I remember that there were many churches and monasteries there. The city of Mosul alone had 45 churches. Now there is not a single one. The buildings have been destroyed. Four hundred churches have been destroyed in Syria,” the agency quoted the patriarch’s statement as saying at a meeting with Greek Defense Minister Panagiotis Kammenos.
The patriarch said that, if the situation continues like this, there will be no Christian presence left in the Middle East, which will lead to the radicalization of Islamic society.
“The presence of the Christian minority was a factor that, in a good sense, brought tolerance and good relations between Christians and Muslims” the patriarch said.
“Now Christianity is the most persecuted religion. The same is happening in Nigeria, Pakistan, and Northern Africa. In some countries of Europe, too, people are prohibited from wearing crosses at work, citing the need for tolerance, do not use the word ‘Christmas’, do not call Easter – Easter, saying just winter holiday or spring holiday instead,” he said.
Kammenos, for his part, recalled that the year 2016 will be the year of Greek culture in Russia and the Year of Russian culture in Greece and also the 1,000th anniversary of the establishment of Russian presence on Mt. Athos.
“I would like to assure Your Holiness that we are doing our best to celebrate this event with the greatness that it deserves,” the minister said.