The Orthodox Church - October/November 1998

Archdiocese applauds US President,
Congress for supporting Patriarchate

NEW YORK, NY [GREEK ARCHDIOCESE] — The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America applauded legislation passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law by US President Bill Clinton on October 21, recognizing the integrity and freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

The legislation calls on the US to use its influence with the Turkish government to suggest that the latter recognize the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its non-political, religious mission; ensure the continued maintenance of the Patriarchate's physical security needs, as provided for under Turkish and international law, including the Treaty of Lausanne, the 1968 Protocol, the Helsinki Final Act (1975), and the Charter of Paris; provide for the proper protection and safety of the Ecumenical Patriarch and Patriarchate personnel; and reopen the Patriarchate's Halki School of Theology.

Upon receiving the news of the passage of this legislation, His Eminence, Archbishop Spyridon, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, issued a statement expressing "our deepest thanks to the honorable members of Congress and to the President for making this legislation possible."

"We can only hope that the inclusion and passage of this legislation will set an example for every member of our own Greek Orthodox Family so that they may take pride in their country and follow the example of their fellow citizens in standing up for human rights and religious liberty everywhere," the statement continued. "We are so fortunate to live in this land of the free and call it our own. But what is even a greater honor is to stand up for the freedoms and liberty of others. In calling all Orthodox Christians to express their thanks to the President and the Members of Congress for this legislation, I would also like to acknowledge the work of Congressman Michael Bilirakis and Congressman Ben Gilman, without whom this legislation would not have come about."

In a related story which was breaking as this issue of The Orthodox Church went to press, the Athens News Agency reported that Turkish officials in Ankara, the nation's capital, had dissolved the Halki Seminary's lay board of trustees. The move, according to the press service, anticipated US congressional legislation calling on Turkey to recognize the Ecumenical Patriarchate and reopen the seminary. The decision on Halki signals a major setback to the efforts of His All Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, since his election in 1991 to secure the reopening of the seminary.

At press time, it was reported that the Patriarch, who has personally taken charge of the issue, was awaiting a response to a request for an audience with government officials in Ankara to discuss a broad spectrum of issues, including the Halki matter. 

[ The Orthodox Church - October/November 1998 - p. 15 ]