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Former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, US Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ)

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, entered the following statement into the Congressional Record to mark the Great and Holy Council, a once-in-a-millennium meeting of Orthodox Christian Churches:

“Mr. President, once again Greece, the home of democracy, the home of the fundamental principle of religious freedom that democracy has come to represent here in America, is making history, this time on the Island of Crete where Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is leading a meeting of Orthodox Christian Churches, The Great and Holy Council, that occurs only once-in-a-millennium. In fact, it has not happened since 787 CE, but is happening now.

“The three million Orthodox Christians across America, from all fourteen national jurisdictions around the world with the largest number affiliated with the Greek Orthodox Church — the Church of the convener of the Council — Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, are following this historic gathering with great anticipation.

“It is the charge of The Great and Holy Council to deal with internal church matters but, Orthodox Christians are also deeply concerned with the opportunity this historic event presents for a wider ranging conversation about not only process within the confines of religion, but the prospects for peace and prosperity it represents for all members of the Church and for all people around the world.

“Orthodox Christians in America come from all walks of life and represent all opinions and points-of-view. They include personalities well-known to all of us in this Chamber and beyond; ABC journalist and host of Good Morning America George Stephanopoulos; Huffington Post creator Arianna Huffington; and sportscaster Bob Costas. In the political world, they include former Governor of Massachusetts and Democratic nominee for President Mike Dukakis; Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and former Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, John Podesta; and current Members of Congress: Representative Dina Titus of Nevada and Nikki Tsongas of Massachusetts, as well as Congressmen John Sarbanes of Maryland and Gus Bilirakis of Florida.

“Mr. President, these are all respected, talented, accomplished Orthodox Christians whose faith and opinions are represented at the historic convocation of the Holy and Great Council. They are among the more than one million Greek Orthodox Americans who are led by their spiritual head, Archbishop Demetrios, who presides over seven Metropolitans with regional jurisdictions that serve on the local Holy Synod. The Archbishop and his predecessors have played a prominent role in American life, culture, and history that has been part of the fabric of this nation. We all remember the famous civil rights march in Selma, Alabama led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but we may not remember that, at the march was also the late Archbishop Iakovos marching shoulder-to-shoulder with Dr. King.

“Mr. President, Greek-Americans, hailing from 500 churches across this nation, including many in my home state of New Jersey, believe deeply that this Great and Holy Council is a fateful gathering that can have a dramatic impact on their religion and civilization for one thousand more years, that The Council’s deliberations will hold great meaning and great promise for a better life for all of us, for peace on this planet, and for the greater good of generations to come. They know, and we in this Chamber know, that the importance of Orthodox Christians will be measured not by the history made in Crete at this meeting, but the history Orthodox Christians around the world have already made.

“I join all of my colleagues in hoping for a successful and productive once-in-a-millennium session of the Great and Holy Council. I join with all of my Orthodox Christian friends in New Jersey and around the world in celebrating this historic meeting.”

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