Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew spoke on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was visiting Ankara, and exchanged good wishes for Easter.
The Russian president referred to Bartholomew by his official title, ‘Patriarch of Constantinople,’ using the Christian name for the city.
According to a statement by the Kremlin: “Putin went on to highlight proactive social and charitable activity by the Patriarch of Constantinople, specifically his major contribution to enabling the Russian-speaking community in Turkey to satisfy its religious needs.”
Correspondents say that Putin’s support for the Patriarch comes at a time when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has increasingly marginalized Christianity and imposed Islamic education on Turkey’s secular education system.
Last weekend – on Holy Saturday, the day before Easter for Catholic and Protestant Christians – Erdogan used the Hagia Sophia, built by Greek Christians, to recite an Islamic prayer.
Putin thanked the ecumenical patriarch for his efforts to keep Orthodoxy united and the permission he gave so that a chapel of Saint Andrew could be built at the Russian embassy in Ankara, and for the welcome he received during his two visits to Mt. Athos in Greece.
He also conveyed the brotherly greeting of Patriarch Cyrill of Moscow and All Russia, and Cyrill’s readiness to strengthen relations between the two churches.
Bartholomew congratulated Putin on his recent re-election and said, among other things, that the patriarchate was looking after Orthodox faithful of Russian descent who live in Turkey.