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Remarks of National Commander Limberakis at Banquet in Honor of His All Holiness

Banquet in Honor of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
Ritz Carlton Hotel, Istanbul

Wednesday, December 1, 2004

St. John Chrysostom & St. Gregory the Theologian
The Return of the Relics

Anthony J. Limberakis, MD
Archon Aktouarios
National Commander
Order of St. Andrew / Archons
of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America

Your All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Your Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America and Members of the Holy & Sacred Synod and its hierarchy, Your Excellency the Papal Nuncio Dr. Farhat, Your Excellency Consul General Arnett of the United States, Consul General Alexandris of the Hellenic Republic, Reverend Clergy, esteemed citizens of Turkey, fellow Archons, Ladies and Gentlemen, we are deeply honored to be here, in Istanbul the nexus between East and West, where continents meet to honor the spiritual father of world Orthodoxy, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and to celebrate the return of the holy relics of two of the most profound saints in the Christian Faith: St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom and after 800 years when they were forcibly removed from the Church of the Holy Apostles, in this very city. We, as Orthodox Christians in the United States are under the direct spiritual jurisdiction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, a relationship that is vibrant, strong and deeply beneficial to the church in America. More than any other single institution in the United States, it is the Order of St. Andrew, the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America, whose singular mission is to serve the Holy and Great Mother Church of Constantinople.

�Glory be to God for All Things,� often said words of St. John Chrysostom. �Glory be to God for All things.� These are extraordinary days that we celebrate here in Istanbul with the transposition of the relics of our beloved most holy fathers St. Gregory the Theologian and St. John Chrysostom who are now home, after 800 years. Glory be to God for His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for having the wisdom to seek from our Roman Catholic Brothers the return of these theological giants to their episcopal see to be venerated and emulated. Glory be to God for His Holiness John Paul II, the pope of Rome who, as the esteemed elder brother, offered an apology for the sins committed during the Fourth Crusade. Glory be to God for His All Holiness Bartholomew who offered forgiveness to the Church in the West whose Crusaders sacked Constantinople 800 years ago plundering the theological, architectural and artistic treasures of New Rome. Glory be to God for giving us, the visiting Pilgrims from the United States the opportunity to witness this monumental development in the life of the 2000 year old Christian faith.

We, the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America, under the inspiring leadership of His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, the Exarch of the Ecumenical Throne are the Ambassadors of the Phanar. We project at every opportunity the ministry of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who has served his worldwide flock for the past 13 years with unparalleled visionary leadership. And we congratulate His All Holiness on the recent anniversary of his election and enthronement as Ecumenical Patriarch. Eis Polla Eti Despota! Our beloved Patriarch not only projects our Orthodox Faith to the four corners of the world but also strives to safeguard the environment, to bring parties in conflict together and to find the path towards peace.

As His All Holiness Bartholomew has led the world�s 300 million Orthodox Christians, he has included in his ministry conflict resolution by quietly bringing together leaders from warring nations in conference and in deliberation. He has focused the world�s attention to the environmental crisis by sponsoring numerous international symposia and conferences. He has been visited and honored by presidents, kings, prime ministers, sheiks, muftis, chief rabbis and business, cultural and environmental leaders from every country and has led major leaders from Judaism, Christianity, and Islam to condemn the abuse of religion to justify acts of violence, calling for the separation of political from religious activism. In the 1990s His All Holiness convened a long line of conferences and interventions to promote peace and interfaith cooperation. He addressed crises in Bosnia and Kosovo. He took on a special role after September 11 to work with political and religious leaders to condemn terrorism, to work at inter-religious cooperation and promote international dialogue and cooperation. His All Holiness traveled last year to the Muslim countries of Bahrain, Qatar, Iran, Azerbaijan and Libya. Earlier this year, he made an historic trip to Cuba, his first to Latin America, addressing the political and economic isolation of that country, as well as the human rights situation.

Glory be to God for All things!

This evening we offer our profound respect and admiration to our spiritual father who, like St. John Chrysostom finds himself in a most difficult and challenging situation, here in the Imperial City, at the crossroads between East and West�Asia and Europe...Christianity and Islam. As Orthodox Christians of America we are most concerned. We are concerned that our School of Theology at Halki was forcibly closed 33 years ago by the government and is still shuttered close, as we witnessed today with our own eyes and saw empty classrooms and dormitories. In a country that prides itself on religious tolerance, we cannot educate our clergy because the government closed our seminary. We are concerned that the ownership of our properties including an Orphanage on the Prince�s Islands is being challenged by the government. We witnessed today at Prinkipos Island (Buyukada Island) the end result of religious intolerance, the decay and disintegration of the Ecumenical Patriarchate�s Orphanage it had rightfully owned since 1902 and that on October 21 of this year the Turkish Supreme Court expropriated. We are concerned that Balukli Hospital and Home for the Aged which is affiliated with the Ecumenical Patriarchate and has been in operation for over 250 years serving the Istanbul community is now being taxed at a 42% rate retroactive to 1999. We are concerned that the government wrongfully feels that only Turkish citizens are entitled to hold the profound office of Ecumenical Patriarch and not any bishop from around the world who is qualified.

Yet, as optimistic Orthodox Christians we believe that love will triumph and that tolerance and understanding will prevail over narrow-mindedness; understanding over intransigence and we intend to convey this message in Ankara tomorrow. We are optimistic because under the leadership of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan we believe Turkey is going in the right direction towards accession into the European Union which we wholehearted support. We are optimistic because we were told by Education Minister Celic last February in face to face meetings that it is indeed the government position to re-open Halki School of Theology. We are optimistic because when there is good will among peoples, justice will prevail and that which is right will triumph.

We believe that better days are ahead for the Spiritual Center of world Orthodoxy. It is our dream that the brilliance of the rising sun that shimmers over the Bosporus, the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara will one day shine on an Ecumenical Patriarch that is free to educate its clergy at Halki, free to determine its own destiny and free to exercise its rights as property owners in a tolerant society where East meets West and where Europe embraces Asia.

God Bless His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew!
God Bless Archbishop Demetrios of America!
God Bless Turkey!
God Bless America!