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Religious Freedom Project for the Ecumenical Patriarchate
The Order of St. Andrew has launched a major Religious
Freedom Initiative in an attempt to safeguard the future of the Ecumenical
Patriarchate whose existence is threatened by the persecutory policies
of the government of Turkey. A major component of this initiative is mobilizing
the Orthodox Churches in the United States to ask their respective United
States Senators to sign a letter to President Bush which articulates the
crisis in religious freedom the Ecumenical Patriarchate faces, which if
continues threatens the survival of this nearly 2000 year old institution
founded by the First Called Apostle of Christ, Andrew, the brother of
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to express our 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. The Ecumenical Patriarch in Istanbul, Turkey is the spiritual head of 250 million Orthodox Christians worldwide and the 269th direct successor of the Apostle Andrew. Only stronger American and European Union support for the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate can prevent a religious tragedy of historic magnitude.
Seventy-five percent of the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s properties have 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 only has 2,500 remaining Orthodox Christians and they are a mostly elderly community.
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 disappearance of the See would also 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.
Please help Turkey understand America’s close ties to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the importance we attach to its welfare. In doing so, we hope you can help Turkey realize our strong desire that the Ecumenical Patriarchate be accorded the religious freedom it deserves and persuade the Turkish government to abandon policies that will lead to the disappearance of this Sacred See.