On April 17th His Holiness Moran Mor Ignatius Aphrem II received Mr. M. Levent Bilgen, Consul General of the Republic of Turkey. Mr. Bilgen expressed his condolences for the passing away of the late Patriarch Mor Ignatius Zakka I and congratulated His Holiness for his election as Patriarch of Antioch.
His Holiness recalled the visits of his predecessor Patriarch Ignatius Zakka I to Turkey and his meetings with the President and Primer Minister there. He expressed that the Suryani community and its monasteries and churches are part of the cultural heritage of Turkey and maintaining them will only enrich the diversity and mosaic-like make-up of Turkey. He thanked the Turkish government for returning some of the lands of Mor Gabriel Monastery and urged the Consul General to press the government to return the rest of the lands of the monastery. His Holiness also thanked the Turkish government for the new reforms that aim at returning lands to the Suryani community.
His Holiness also requested of Mr. Bilgen to pass to Ankara a request regarding the kidnapped bishops Mor Gregorius Yuhanna Ibrahim and Boulus Yaziji. He expressed that the lack of information from the various governments of the regions is frustrating and hoped that Turkey can share whatever information it has on the case of the kidnapped bishops.
Mr. Bilgen thanked His Holiness for receiving him. He pledged to continue to help the Suryani immigrant community in the US with any paperwork that they need. His Holiness thanked Mr. Bilgen for his visit and assured him of his friendship. His Holiness also expressed that he plans to visit Tur Abdin and the southeast of Turkey at the earliest possibility.