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Statement by the Ranking Democrat on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) on the Holy and Great Council

U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today issued the following statement, submitted to the Congressional Record, recognizing the Holy and Great Council gathering of Christian Orthodox churches taking place in Crete, Greece:

"Mr. President, I rise today to recognize the historic events taking place in Crete, Greece. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has called the first Great and Holy Council of the various Christian Orthodox churches around the world since 787 CE.

"The Holy and Great Council is the first meeting of its kind in over a millennium. The 14 Orthodox Christian Churches together have over 300 million followers around the world, including over a million Americans. These churches are self-governing but united by common dogma, faith, liturgy and moral conviction, with the Ecumenical Patriarch serving as the 'first among equals.'

"This meeting began on Sunday, June 19 and will continue through June 26. There will be 350 leaders attending this meeting where they will promote unity among the world's Orthodox believers. They will discuss key issues facing Orthodox Christians, including the church's mission in today's world, the Orthodox diaspora and the relationship of Christian Orthodoxy with the rest of the Christian world.

"The Patriarch has a record of reaching out and working for peace and reconciliation among all faiths, and has fostered dialogue among Christians, Jews and Muslims. His All-Holiness has received awards from the United Nations, the United States and other nations for providing moral leadership throughout modern history's greatest tests. His efforts to convene this Holy and Great Council are a testament to his continued leadership at a time when it is greatly needed. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Patriarch organized a gathering of religious leaders including Muslim Imams to condemn the attacks as an anti-religious act. He was also the first Ecumenical Patriarchate to attend the inauguration of a Pope.

"With so much suffering taking place around the world, we need people to come together -- like they are in this historic meeting -- and work to advance our shared values. I commend and thank Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for convening this Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Christian Churches in Crete, Greece."