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In Era of Polarization, Republicans and Democrats Unite: Religious Freedom Trumps Diplomatic Expediency

Washington, D.C. - Just days after the Pew Research Center, in the largest political survey in its history, found that Republicans and Democrats are further apart ideologically than at any point in recent history, the Senators of the Foreign Relations Committee provided a stunning counterpoint: regardless of party, they agreed unanimously on one of the most vital issues of our day – that in dealing with the United States of America, religious freedom trumps diplomatic expediency.

“In a striking show of solidarity, all ten Democrats and all eight Republicans on the Committee signed a letter to President Barack Obama urging him to support religious freedom for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual head of Orthodox Christianity, the second largest Christian Church in the world,” said Dr. Anthony Limberakis, National Commander of the Order of St. Andrew – Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

“We greatly appreciate the leadership of Senators Chris Murphy (D-CT) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), the Chairman and Ranking Member, respectively, of the Senate European Affairs Subcommittee, who initiated this letter,” said Andy Manatos, who heads the Order’s religious freedom efforts in Washington, DC.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is urging President Obama to press Turkey to grant the Ecumenical Patriarch full religious freedom. The letter said, “The restoration of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s religious freedom would benefit people of all faiths, America’s national interests, and the best interests of Turkey as well.”

The Ecumenical Patriarchate is located in Istanbul, Turkey, and its freedom is increasingly restricted by the Turkish government in a number of ways:

  1. Religious properties have been confiscated including prime properties that overlook the Bosporus;

  2. The Theological School of Halki has been closed since 1971, effectively condemning the Church in Turkey to death by denying it the ability to renew itself by training hierarchs allowed by Turkish law to lead the Church;

  3. The Turkish government has refused to recognize the title 'Ecumenical' for the Patriarch, which is tantamount to the Italian government refusing to recognize the title “Pope” for the Archbishop of Rome, Francis;

  4. Religious freedom has been denied to Orthodox Christians in Turkey, including the spiritual head the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, the Ecumenical Patriarch.

  5. Permission to restore and maintain churches has been denied, the result of which is only to hammer more nails into the coffin of Orthodoxy in Turkey – a NATO member that aspires to leadership of its region.

“This rare display of unity between Democrats and Republicans follows that between Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian Authority President Mahmud Abbas in a recent prayer meeting at the Vatican with Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, itself yet another rare display of unity between rivals that just 50 years ago lifted the nearly 1,000-year-old excommunication of each other’s churches.  The Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch are the direct successors of the Apostles and brothers Peter and Andrew.  Peter traveled to Rome while Andrew made his way to Constantinople (today’s Istanbul in Turkey) and they served as co-bishops in the undivided Christian Church until the Great Schism between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches in 1054,” said Father Alexander Karloutsos, spiritual advisor to the Order of St. Andrew.

Pope Francis and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew share many spiritual beliefs and concerns about the world today.  The renowned journalist Charlie Rose said recently of the Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch, “It is their imperative to make this world a better place for all.”  Rose’s admiration for Pope Francis is well known and he recently said of Bartholomew, “When I look at all the interviews I have had in my life there is no interview that I can think of that I would place higher than the conversation I had with the Ecumenical Patriarch.”

For more information, please contact Mike Manatos at [email protected] or 202-393-0091.


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