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Order of St. Andrew presents program entitled, 'Religious Freedom & the Ecumenical Patriarchate' at Annual Conference of National Hellenic Student Association in NYC on May 10, 2014

Regional Commander Dr. Cary J. Limberakis addresses the National Hellenic Student Association at the Bitcoin Center in New York. (Photo by J. Mindala)
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New York, NY - At the kind invitation from the National Hellenic Student Association through its President, Konstantine Ouranitsas, the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, was asked to offer a presentation at their annual conference in New York City regarding the Religious Freedom and Human Rights deficit that exists in Turkey today as it pertains to the Ecumenical Patriarchate as well as other religious minorities in that country. Greetings were read from His Eminence, Archbishop Demetrios of America. Officially welcoming the attendees was Consul General of Greece in New York, Georgios Iliopoulos.

On behalf of The Order, Dr. Cary J. Limberakis, Archon Aktouarios and Regional Commander of Philadelphia, delivered the address.  To those who were not knowing, he explained the history of the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, described who an Archon is what his mission is as defender of the faith.  With the backdrop of the religious freedom and human rights violations perpetrated on the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Dr. Limberakis identified the 60 Minutes interview of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew by Correspondent Bob Simon as the single most significant event to draw attention to the crisis, when he asked, “Your All-Holiness, do you sometimes feel crucified?”

The Regional Commander enumerated the five critical issues surrounding the plight of the Ecumenical Patriarchate: 1) The lack of legal identity, 2) The inability to buy, sell or inherit property by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, 3) The interference in the process of selecting an Ecumenical Patriarch, 4) The refusal to officially recognize the “ecumenical’ status of His All-Holiness, 5) The forcible closure of the Halki Seminary, and possible re-conversion of the Great Church of Christ, Hagia Sophia, into a mosque.  He also mentioned the daily intimidation that occurs as well as the desecrating and destruction of our monasteries.

He then went on to delineate the actions the Archons are engaged in to restore religious freedom and human rights to all the religious minorities in Turkey.   In the United States, the Archons have been to the White House, the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom.  The Archons have encouraged a letter writing campaign urging religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarch signed by both U.S. Senators and Congressmen.  In addition, the Archons have been successful in the drafting of resolutions of religious freedom in the state legislatures of the vast majority of states.  In Europe, the Archons have convened two International Religious Freedom Conferences, the first in Brussels and, most recently, in Berlin, drawing an international panel of speakers.  The Archons are represented annually at the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe.  We have been to Turkey and have spoken with Prime Minster Erdogan and other officials. Another strategy employed in Turkey is to utilize their judicial system to seek legal remedies.

The goal is to restore to the Ecumenical Patriarchate religious freedom and human rights, to have confiscated properties returned, and to peacefully co-exist.