Vienna, 16 June 2004 - Foreign Minister Benita Ferrero-Waldner received the head of the Eastern Church, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomaois I., who is paying a 7-day visit to Austria in order to attend the celebrations of the "200th anniversary of the Greek School" and the "200th anniversary of the foundation of St. George’s Church" in Griechengasse in Vienna. The Foreign Minister showed herself highly pleased about the meeting and praised the Ecumenical Patriarch as an "eminent bridge builder between religions, nations and cultures".
In this context, Ferrero-Waldner encouraged the Greek Orthodox Church to continue its active support for a dialogue of religions, in particular with Islam. "We agree that only a continued dialogue with Islam can guarantee stability on the Balkans in the long term", said the Foreign Minister. According to her, an open dialogue based on mutual confidence can always make an important contribution to peace: "Austria is firmly committed to a dialogue of religions, notably with Islam, at the political level but also on the basis of concrete projects and meetings. It is not only a task of the governments but a common task of all Christian Churches to enter into a dialogue with Islam."
Moreover, Foreign Minister Ferrero-Waldner expressed satisfaction about the fact that the Greek Orthodox Church - just like the Republic of Austria - considered environmental protection a vital task: "I am very glad to see that environmental protection and the objective of pursuing sustainable development are a common concern of Austria and the Greek Orthodox Church. In this area, Austria tries to take concrete steps by closely cooperating with the countries of the Danube area", stated the Foreign Minister.
Finally, Ferrero-Waldner described the relations between Austria and the Greek Orthodox Church as very positive. "I am pleased that the equal status of the Greek Orthodox Church in Austria was enshrined in the law more than 30 years ago, and I can assure you that Austria will always advocate the equality of rights for the Greek Orthodox Church also in other states", said the Foreign Minister.