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Recollections

by
01 May 2015

The Rt Revd Geoffrey Rowell writes:

FURTHER to your obituary of Canon Geoffrey Evans (Gazette, 24 April), he devoted the largest part of a long and faithful ministry to the diocese in Europe, and particularly to Turkey, serving for many years in Izmir (for part of that time with his responsibilities as Archdeacon of the Aegean and the Danube), in Ankara, and briefly in Istanbul.

He built warm relationships with the diplomatic community, who appreciated his personal pastoral care and his service to the wider British community in Turkey. It was for this that he was awarded an OBE.

He had a particularly close relationship with Willy Buttigieg, the consul in Izmir, who tells how, when Geoffrey first arrived, he had asked him to take care of the savings he had brought with him. Unfortunately, Willy said, he did not keep them for long because he was always raiding them to give to the many in need who came to him - on one occasion taking off his coat to give to a shivering beggar because "He needs it more than me." His generosity was shown in his pastoral care of the poor, people in prison, mental patients, and many others.

He built relationships with the NATO base in Izmir, to the extent that Turkish generals came to his remembrance service. He played a key role in developing the annual service of remembrance for the British, Irish, and Commonwealth troops who gave their lives in the Gallipoli campaign. It was a service at which he presided for many years, most notably at the 75th Anniversary commemoration attended by the then Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher.

He had a particular concern for the Christian minorities of Turkey, and especially for the Syriac Christian communities in the Tur Abdin, in the south-east of the country, and was a discreet champion of their cause in difficult circumstances, supporting young students from there, and raising funds for tractors and other practical assistance.

It was a consequence of my own visit with Geoffrey to the monastery of Mor Gabriel that led to the suggestion that Prince Charles ought to visit, which eventually happened, part of the Prince's continuing concern for the Christian minorities of the Middle East.

It was fitting that he was a recipient of the Royal Maundy in Westminster Abbey in 2011, the first occasion on which the diocese in Europe had been able to nominate recipients.

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