"On Thursday, November 30 Pope Benedict the XVI will meet with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul, Turkey. The Ecumenical Patriarch is the head of the Christian Orthodox Church, which represents 250 million people worldwide. This is only the fourth time in 1,000 years the Pope will have visited the Ecumenical Patriarch," said Dr. Anthony Limberakis, National Commander of the Orthodox Church's Order of St. Andrew.
"In advance of this historic meeting, 73 U.S. Senators signed a letter to President George W. Bush expressing 'deep concern that policies of the Turkish government pose a grave threat to the future of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the spiritual home of the world's second largest Christian Church - Orthodox Christianity.' The Senators call this `a religious tragedy of historic magnitude.' The President receives approximately five letters a year with this level of Senate support," said Limberakis.
The Senators' letter states, "Millions of Orthodox Christian Americans stand to lose their spiritual head and all Christians will give up a crucial link to their history and forefathers. Within the 2,000-year-old Sacred See the text of the New Testament was codified, the canonical structure of the Christian church was established, and the Nicene Creed was created."
The Senators' letter adds, "Seventy-five percent of the Ecumenical Patriarchate's properties has already been confiscated by the Turkish government. Beyond this, the Patriarchate's dissolution in the coming decades is essentially inevitable if Turkey continues its policy of prohibiting all 250 million non-Turkish Orthodox Christians from becoming Ecumenical Patriarch. Turkey itself has only 2,500 remaining eligible Greek Orthodox Christians and they are mostly elderly.
"The disappearance of the See would mean the end of a crucial link between Christians and the Muslim world. Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew gathered international religious leaders and produced the first condemnation of the attacks as "anti-religious" that included Muslim leaders. At a time when individuals hostile to the United States are attempting to create conflict between Christians and Muslims, the continuing presence of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey is a living testimony of religious co-existence since 1453.
"Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew's individual importance to America is reflected in the record number of Congressional cosponsors who bestowed on him our country's highest honor, the Congressional Gold Medal - an award also given to George Washington, Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela and Pope John Paul II, among others."
On November 20, 2006, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America and His Eminence Cardinal William H. Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore and central Roman Catholic hierarch in the dialogue between Orthodox and Roman Catholics, issued a joint statement of fraternal understanding and prayer for the upcoming three-day visit of Pope Benedict XVI with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch have a long history. Together, they led the church from which all Christian denominations descended - the Pope from Rome and the Ecumenical Patriarch from Constantinople (Istanbul). In 1054 the Catholic and Orthodox churches split.
For more information, contact Mike Manatos at 202-441-3979 or Andy Manatos at 202-441-3978.