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Senator McCain urges U.S. President Bush to address Ecumenical Patriarchate's religious freedom rights

Archbishop Demetrios of America welcomed Senator John McCain to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in June 2008.

Senator John McCain has issued a letter to U.S. President George W. Bush expressing his concern on the religious freedom issues affecting the Ecumenical Patriarchate. In particular, Senator McCain cites the refusal of the Turkish government to recognize the "ecumenical" status of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and also their denial to reopen the Orthodox Theological Seminary of Halki.

In his letter, Senator McCain says, "As Americans, I know we share a deep respect for the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and for the Greek Orthodox community worldwide... The Ecumenical Patriarchate, the spiritual home to more than 250 million Orthodox Christians living and worshiping throughout the world, stands as a stirring testament to the power of faith in the global community... It is in our interest to work collectively with the Turkish government and our European allies to pursue a course of action that will protect the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and prevent a religious tragedy."

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America welcomed Senator McCain to the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in June 2007 and 2008 where the two discussed the specific issues surrounding religious freedom and legal protections for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and other human rights concerns.

Senator McCain is not alone in his defense for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Last June, Senator Barack Obama also voiced his concern during an interview with the Greek bureau of Voice of America. "[Obama] called on Turkey to give religious freedom to the institution, return the property to the patriarchate and allow the opening of the theological school on the island of Halki," Greek daily To Vima reported.

In response to the support that both U.S. presidential candidates have proclaimed, National Commander Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis commented, "As an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and as a citizen of this great nation, I am encouraged to see that both presidential candidates, Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama, have taken strong positions advocating religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Archons of America will continue to fight for religious freedom on behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Whether it is in the Congressional Chambers in Washington, or ministerial offices in Ankara, or the offices of parliamentarians, commissioners, and justices of the European Union, we will never quit fighting for religious freedom until we hear the bells of freedom emanating from the Phanar."

Senator McCain's letter can be read in its entirety below, or by viewing the actual letter in PDF format.
 



President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President

I am writing to express concern regarding the current situation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, located in Istanbul, Turkey. The Ecumenical Patriarchate, the spiritual home to more than 250 million Orthodox Christians living and worshiping throughout the world, stands as a stirring testament to the power of faith in the global community.

Many have spoken out in recent years over actions of the government of Turkey against the Ecumenical Patriarchate, including its decision not to recognize the ecumenical status of the Greek Orthodox Patriarch and its refusal to reopen the Halki Seminary. I too share many of these concerns and believe that the United States must stand in favor of basic religious rights and freedoms.

The United States and Turkey share an important strategic partnership based on many shared interests and principles. It is important that allies speak candidly not only on issues of agreement, but also on areas of concern. In discussions with the Turkish government, the United States must voice our strong support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and continue our unequivocal advocacy for the preservation and protection of fundamental human rights, religious liberty, and social justice.

As Americans, I know we share a deep respect for the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and for the Greek Orthodox community worldwide. It is in our interest to work collectively with the Turkish government and our European allies to pursue a course of action that will protect the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and prevent a religious tragedy.

Sincerely,

John McCain
United States Senator