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Archons make Religious Freedom Mission for the Ecumenical Patriarchate to European Union

His All-Holiness with Vice President Joseph Biden at the Ecumenical Patriarchate, along with Archons. (Photo by N. Manginas)
View photos of the Religious Freedom Mission┬╗

With the blessings of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a delegation of Archons of the Order of Saint Andrew, in a continuation of the Archons' Religious Freedom Mission, visited Warsaw, Poland, the current seat of the European Union Presidency, from November 30 to December 2, 2011. National Commander, Anthony J. Limberakis, M.D. led the delegation joined by Regional Commander Andrew E. Manatos and Regional Commander Judge B.Theodore Bozonelis.

Thereafter, on December 2 to December 3, 2011, the delegation traveled to the Phanar, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Spiritual Center of world Orthodoxy in Istanbul to conclude its mission. At the Phanar the delegation offered assistance and participated in meetings on the issue of Turkey's return of confiscated properties for the benefit of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. On December 3, 2011, the delegation, accompanied by Father Alexander Karloutsos, Spiritual Advisor to the Order joined His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios for the historic, first ever visit of a sitting Vice President of the United States to the Ecumenical Patriarch, as Vice President Joe Biden visited the Phanar and met with His All-Holiness.

WARSAW
Diplomat Contacts

The Archon delegation, comprised of National Commander Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis, Regional Commander Andrew E. Manatos and Regional Commander the Hon. Judge B. Theodore Bozonelis, met with His Excellency Gabriel Coptsidis, Greek Ambassador to Poland.

In Warsaw, the delegation focused on the dual message of advocating religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Turkey's accession to the European Union, conditioned on its compliance with the European Union's strong support for religious freedom and human rights. Meetings first took place with the Greek, Turkish and United States Embassies. United States Ambassador to Poland, Hon. Lee A. Feinstein and his staff provided essential guidance and assistance in arranging meetings with diplomats and religious and government leaders.

The delegation began the mission at the Greek Embassy hosted by His Excellency Gabriel Coptsidis, Ambassador of Greece to Poland. Specific areas of concern regarding religious freedom confronting the Ecumenical Patriarchate were discussed in an open manner.

These frank discussions continued with His Excellency, Resit Uman, Ambassador of Turkey to Poland who graciously received the delegation at his private residence. The delegation raised without compromise the reopening of Halki, the use of the word "Ecumenical" to recognize the rightful position of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew as First among Equals among all Orthodox Christians and the return of confiscated properties to the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The delegation also noted the positive steps Turkey has taken toward religious freedom and human rights but that much more needed to be done. The meeting concluded with the delegation's support for Turkey's entry into the European Union conditioned on its total acceptance of religious freedom for all minority religions and enhancement of human rights.

The Archon delegation met with The Honorable Lee Feinstein, the 25th U.S. Ambassador to Poland.

U.S. Ambassador Hon. Lee A. Feinstein welcomed the delegation to the U.S. Embassy and later at his residence and at a private informal dinner. He offered complete support to the delegation's mission and was thoroughly briefed by Dr. Limberakis on the historical background of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and Turkey's suppression of religious freedom for minorities. Ambassador Feinstein personally assisted the delegation in arranging meetings with Polish religious and government leaders and assured the delegation that the Embassy will have further discussions to request Poland to urge Turkey to allow religious freedom to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and all minorities. Ambassador Feinstein is a longtime friend and colleague of Archon William Antholis, Managing Director of the Brookings Institution who introduced the ambassador to the Order of Saint Andrew in preparation of the religious freedom mission.

Religious Leaders

The Archon delegation met with His Eminence Cardinal Nycz, Archbishop of Warsaw.

The majority of Polish citizens are Roman Catholic and the Church is led by Cardinal Archbishop of Warsaw, Kazimierz Nycz. The delegation was received by Cardinal Nycz at the Archdiocese of Warsaw. The Cardinal is known for his support of human rights and religious freedom issues and emphasizes contact with religious minorities in Poland. The delegation discussed its mission of religious freedom for all minorities in Turkey and its support for Turkey's entry to the European Union conditioned on its full acceptance of religious freedom and human rights issues. The Cardinal understood the historical religious significance of these goals and expressed deep respect for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, whom he has met.

The Archon delegation met with members of the Polish Ecumenical Council. The Council was founded in 1946 and comprised of a community of Churches aimed at ecumenical dialogue.

In further support for religious freedom for all religious minorities, the delegation met with the Presidium of the Polish Ecumenical Council comprised of the religious minorities in Poland represented by Orthodox Christians, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, Reformed Protestants, Evangelical and Old Catholic Churches. The Council discussed their initiatives for interfaith cooperation and support for the delegation's mission and the delegation offered a historical perspective of religious issues in Turkey and support for the Council's programs, recognizing how Poland has overcome the devastation of World War II and Communist rule to be a major proponent of religious freedom. The delegation had the opportunity at that time to meet with a representative of His Beatitude Metropolitan Savas of the Autocephalous Church of Poland.

Government Leaders

The delegation met with His Excellency Jan Borkowski, Secretary of State for Poland's Ministry of Foreign Affairs and also Director Piotr Ogrodzinski.

The delegation was privileged to met with Jan Borowski, Secretary of State, Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Poland has had a long and established relationship with Turkey and supports Turkey's entry into the European Union. Holding the current Presidency of the European Union Council, Poland has a unique role in promoting religious freedom and human rights. In this regard, the delegation acknowledged its support for Turkey to join the European Union conditioned on its adherence to religious freedom values, especially for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The delegation further urged the Polish government officials to consult with Turkish government officials on the delegation's mission based on their influence and good relationship with Turkey.

The delegation met with Minister Michalowski and the Director of the Office of Foreign Affairs, Ms. Dorota Ostrowska-Cobas at Poland's Presidential Palace

The mission in Warsaw concluded with a meeting at the Presidential Palace with Jacek Michalowski, Chief of Staff and Head of the Chancellery to the President of the Republic of Poland. The delegation was accompanied at the meeting by U.S. Ambassador Lee A. Feinstein. The delegation summarized all of its meetings in Warsaw in explaining its mission. As a result and with the added significance of the presence of the U.S. Ambassador, the Chief of Staff indicated that his office would make every effort to consult with Turkey on the importance of religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and all minorities and emphasized Poland's strong support for religious freedom and human rights issues. The delegation thanked the Chief of Staff for the warm welcomed it received in Poland and noted with gratitude the important role of the U.S. Ambassador to ensure a productive visit.

The Phanar

The historical first visit of a sitting Vice President of the United States took place at the Ecumenical Patriarchate between His All-Holiness and Vice President Biden.

Following the successful mission results in Warsaw, the delegation traveled to Istanbul on December 2, 2011, to meet with attorneys and Ecumenical Patriarchate representatives on Turkey's return of confiscated properties and to represent the Order of Saint Andrew in the historic visit of United States Vice President, Joe Biden with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The delegation was assisted and guided by Father Alexander Karloutsos, Spiritual Advisor to the Order of Saint Andrew.

The delegation met first with Laki Vingas, Council Member of the General Directorate of Foundations representing Non-Muslim Communities and Yannis Ktistakis, legal counsel to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, to discuss the background and procedures for applying to Turkish authorities to return confiscated properties for the benefit of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The meeting was precipitated by the August 27, 2011 Decree announced by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo─čan of Turkey to allow minority foundations to apply to regain religious properties confiscated by the Turkish authorities since 1936. It applies to the 163 minority foundations who by 1936 Turkish law registered all their properties with the government's General Directorate of Foundations. Properties that have since been conveyed to third parties would be resolved by compensation pursuit to regulations adopted on October 1, 2011. Of the registered minority foundations, 67 are Greek Orthodox involving over 1000 properties in issue.

Archon Regional Commander Judge B. Theodore Bozonelis met with Patriarchal Attorney John Ktistakis and Deacon Joachim Billis of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

An all-day meeting on substantive issues for the return of confiscated properties took place the next day at the Phanar between local Turkish counsel representing minority foundations, Regional Commander, Judge B. Theodore Bozonelis, Yannis Ktistakis and Fr. Joachim Billis, Deputy Secretary of the Holy and Sacred Synod representing His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. National Commander, Anthony J. Limberakis, M.D. joined the meeting to offer support and continued assistance from the Order of Saint Andrew. The meeting was productive and resulted in an understanding of the course of action and policies to be followed in seeking the return of confiscated properties.

The delegation then joined the reception for United States Vice President, Joe Biden, after the historic private meeting between the Vice President and His All Holiness accompanied by Archbishop Demetrios of America, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The delegation also participated in a private tour of the Patriarchal Church of Saint George for the Vice President led by His All-Holiness and Archbishop Demetrios.

The Order of Saint Andrew hosted a dinner in honor of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and concluding their religious freedom mission.

The mission of the Order of Saint Andrew concluded with a dinner hosted by Archbishop Demetrios and the Order for His All Holiness to acknowledge and celebrate the 20th anniversary of His All-Holiness as our loving and worldwide Spiritual Father and to join in fellowship for the conclusion of a successful mission. At the dinner, National Commander, Anthony J. Limberakis, M.D., recognized the extraordinary effort of the Order's Spiritual Advisor, Fr. Alexander Karloutsos, in coordinating the day's events and spoke for all Archons by stating "the paternal love and guidance of His All Holiness and Archbishop Demetrios empowers the Archons to execute their sacred ministry of defending the Holy and Great Mother Church of Constantinople."


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