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Archons Host Religious Freedom Sidebar at U.S. Capitol with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Members of Congress and Diplomats joining Archbishop Elpidophoros of America

Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, was among several members of Congress who attended the Order of Saint Andrew's sidebar at the US Department of State Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.

On Wednesday, July 17, 2019, the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, held a sidebar during the U.S. Department of State Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom at the United States Capitol Visitor Center led by Archbishop Elpidophoros of America. In attendance were numerous members of Congress, including Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Speaker of the United States House of Representatives.  The Order of St. Andrew was invited to present a sidebar during the State Department Ministerial by U.S. Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback at a previous dinner meeting the ambassador had with the Archon leadership.

Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis, National Commander of the Order, noted that Speaker Pelosi was “truly an extraordinary figure in the history of our beloved Nation, as the highest ranking elected woman in United States history and the only woman to have served as Speaker of the House.” He added that she was also “a longtime friend of the Greek Orthodox community in the United States, friend of our beloved Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and advocate of religious freedom,” and that she “honors our newly enthroned Archbishop Elpidophoros with her presence as she welcomes His Eminence to the Capitol.” 

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America during his remarks at the sidebar thanked Speaker Pelosi and other Members of Congress for their efforts promoting religious freedom and in particular their support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Other speakers included:

  • The Rev. Protopresbyter Alexander Karloutsos, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of America and Spiritual Advisor of the Order of St. Andrew; 
  • Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias; 
  • Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; 
  • Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), a Member of the Senate Appropriations Committee; 
  • Rep. Gus Bilirakis(R-FL), an Archon and Co-Chair of the Hellenic-Israel Alliance, Co-Chair of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, and Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; 
  • Rep. Chris Smith(R-NJ), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Global Rights Subcommittee and Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission; 
  • Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), a Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee;
  • Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Co-Chair of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, Co-Chair of the Hellenic-Israel Alliance and Vice Chair of the Joint Economic Committee;
  • Rep. David Cicilline(D-RI), a Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Europe Subcommittee; 
  • Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a Member of the House Judiciary Committee and Oversight Committee. 

During his remarks, Dr. Limberakis noted that “the persecution of Christians is a global phenomenon that is as widespread as it is unnoticed. Almost everywhere that Christians are in the minority, they face regular harassment, discrimination, and worse. 30 percent of the world’s population identifies as Christian, but 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination are directed at Christians. Nor is this persecution restricted to one particular region of the world: Christians face persecution today in more than 60 countries. Between 2007 and 2014, Christians had been targeted for harassment in more countries than any other religious group. Millions of Christians regularly face interrogation, arrest, torture, and even death because of their religious convictions.” 

Dr. Limberakis focused in particular on the plight of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, saying that “in Istanbul, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the center of our Orthodox Faith, continues to suffer. The Turkish government is persistent in maintaining policies that, if not reversed, could lead to the asphyxiation of Orthodox Christianity in Turkey, one of its historical heartlands, and nothing less than the threatened end of our Holy and Great Mother Church.” 

In attendance were 17 Members of Congress:

  • Rep. Gus Bilirakis(R-FL), an Archon and Co-Chair of the Hellenic-Israel Alliance, Co-Chair of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, and Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee; 
  • Rep. Chris Pappas(D-NH), a Member of the House Infrastructure Committee and Veteran’s Affairs Committee; 
  • Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Co-Chair of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus, Co-Chair of the Hellenic-Israel Alliance and Vice Chair of the Joint Economic Committee;
  • Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee; 
  • Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Chair of the House Committee on Appropriations; 
  • Rep. Chris Smith(R-NJ), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Global Rights Subcommittee and Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission;
  • Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Co-Chair of the House Problem Solvers Caucus; 
  • Rep. David Cicilline(D-RI), a Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Europe Subcommittee; 
  • Rep. Sean Maloney (D-NY), a Member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence; 
  • Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R-TN), a Member of the House Appropriations Committee; 
  • Rep. Jim Cooper(D-TN), a Member of the House Armed Services Committee and Budget Committee and Oversight Committee; 
  • Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), a Member of the House Judiciary Committee and Oversight Committee;
  • Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), a Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee;
  • Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), a Member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. 

Present from the Senate were Senators Menendez and Van Hollen. 

Numerous religious leaders and foreign dignitaries also attended the event, including His Beatitude Theophilos, Patriarch of Jerusalem; His Eminence Archbishop Angaelos, the Coptic Orthodox Archbishop of London; the Ambassador of the European Union to the United States, Stavros Lambrinidis; Ambassador Marios Lysiotis, the Cypriot Ambassador to the U.S.; Theodoros Bizakis, Deputy Chief of Mission of the Embassy of Greece; and Achilles Rakinas, Political Affairs Officer of the Embassy of Greece.

Speakers also noted the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, Asia, China, India, Africa and elsewhere, calling attention to the gravity of this global catastrophe. 

Dr. Limberakis acknowledged the efforts of Regional Commander Archon Andrew E. Manatos, Archon Mike Manatos, Liz Fagan and Archon Andrew Veniopoulos and Archon John Mindala in the organization of this historic Archon initiative in its overall global strategy to secure the complete and unfettered religious freedom of the Spiritual Center of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, located in Istanbul, Turkey.


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