New York, NY - This year as we prepare to celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, we behold around the world our brothers and sisters in Christ suffering violent and constant persecution. Hierarchs, clergy, monastics and Orthodox communicants are murdered, kidnapped and suffer unspeakable indignities. Beheadings, crucifixions and barbaric acts continue to be inflicted on the innocent inhabitants of the Middle East simply for professing their Christian faith. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and Pope Francis this year in their Joint Declarations both in May from Jerusalem and in November from the Ecumenical Patriarchate made the clarion call for unity and reconciliation... "The terrible situation of Christians and all those who are suffering in the Middle East calls not only for our constant prayer, but also for an appropriate response on the part of the international community." [Joint Declaration November 30, 2014]
We Archons have made our position very clear. We will not be silent, nor will we watch our brothers and sisters be extinguished in the very lands that gave birth to our Orthodox Christian Faith. We continue to pursue our multifaceted domestic and international religious freedom initiatives. Next month the Archons are hosting a religious freedom summit at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America with Archbishop Demetrios where we will review and reassess all our religious freedom programing so that we optimize existing religious freedom initiatives, determine whether new programing should be developed that is more appropriate given the evolving status of Turkey in the world community and determine whether certain programing should be abandoned. We will work relentlessly to secure the complete and unfettered religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was born in Bethlehem, but now a wall of exclusion is ghettoizing what very little is left there of the Church He founded. As a Child, Joseph and His Mother took Jesus to Egypt in order to protect him, and now we see the venerable Coptic Church of Egypt threatened with its very existence. Our salvation was accomplished on His Holy Cross and in the Life-giving Tomb in Jerusalem, where every day our Patriarchate suffers indignities. We were first called Christians in Antioch (Acts 11:26) and it was on the road to Damascus that the Apostle of the Nations saw the light (Acts 9), but civil war and religious hatred threaten the survival of that ancient Patriarchate. And we know perhaps best of all the continuous struggle of the Mother Church of Constantinople, in whose bosom the Seven Ecumenical Councils formulated the essence of the Christian Faith for all time, and where for over forty years Her beloved Halki -- where these dogmas were taught with faith and love -- remains forcibly shuttered.
Maria and my entire family join me in wishing all Archons and their beloved families a joyous and peace-filled Christmas, and we express our abiding and profound gratitude to our spiritual fathers,
His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew,
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America,
the venerable Metropolitans of the Holy Eparchial Synod and to
Fr. Alex Karloutsos and our Brother Archons for their devotion to
the Mother Church of Constantinople.
Anthony J. Limberakis, MD