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Remarks of Commander Limberakis at Archon Tribute Luncheon for Ambassador Edelman in Ankara, Turkey

Your Excellency Ambassador Edelman, Your Excellency Ambassador Christides of the Hellenic Republic, Your Excellency Rev. Dr. Farhat, Papal Nuncio, reverend clergy, Honorable Members of Parliament, distinguished citizens of Turkey, Members of the National Council of the Order of St. Andrew, ladies and gentlemen,

The Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America have journeyed to Istanbul and now to Ankara to pay respect to our beloved spiritual father and leader of the Orthodox Christian world, His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and by doing so, we emphasize the strong bond the Orthodox Christians in the United States share with the Holy Mother Church. We have left our homes at our own personal expense to support the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its institutions, including the Balukli hospital that we visited on Saturday, a hospital that serves 30-40,000 Istanbul citizens every year. We visited the police department at the Beyoglu District and Chief Rabbi Haleva to convey our personal condolences at the loss of life sustained by the police, the Jewish community and the citizens of Istanbul after the horrific terrorist bombings of Istanbul last November and we offered humble financial contributions to each in order to offer assistance to the families of the victims. The Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate from America come in peace, in friendship and in respect, with the hope that the status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will improve in a country that prides itself in being tolerant.

The office of Archon embodies the oldest and greatest honor in all Christendom, an honor of high stature that has its roots in Ancient Greece, was utilized extensively during the Byzantine Empire and now in our day, in modern Christianity is used to honor individuals who have distinguished themselves as exemplary stewards of the church. Among our ranks in America are senior members of Congress, a member of President George Bush’s cabinet, successful businessmen and professionals and dedicated men of the church.

Americans are a deeply religious people. On any given Friday, Saturday or Sunday hundreds of millions of Americans will attend their church, mosque or synagogue to worship according to their beliefs. It is not only a tradition that Americans worship freely and without constraint, it is an unalienable right upon which the United States of America was founded.

My friends, we have traveled to Turkey, to Istanbul and Ankara, leaving our family, our friends and businesses to convey a message of religious tolerance that we seek for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Our voice is heard in the world’s capitals and our presence is respected for what we represent. We seek to defend and promote religious human rights for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We are deeply concerned regarding the freedom of our spiritual leaders to educate our clergy at a now closed seminary located on the beautiful island of Halki. We are deeply concerned regarding the ability of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its institutions to exercise its property rights, properties that in some cases have been held for centuries. We are deeply concerned regarding the government interfering in the actual selection of our own spiritual leaders. As Americans and as citizens of the free world, we are not accustomed to the religious human rights constraints that the Ecumenical Patriarchate experiences.

Yet we are optimistic and take heart by the openness of the present government of Turkey. The sensitivity and insights of Prime Minister Erdogan serve notice to us that we are among friends who care for the well being of the spiritual center of world Orthodoxy, the Ecumenical Patriarchate. The meeting of Prime Minister Erdogan and Archbishop Demetrios of America that took place some two weeks ago at the United Nations not only represented a willingness to promote common interests among men of good will, but I believe was reflective of the keen desire of all parties to make real progress in the field of religious human rights. And that is why we are here today, at the crossroads of Eastern and Western civilizations, among friends of diverse culture and language who all share a common lineage as God’s creations; and as His children we are dutibound to promote good will, peace among mankind and harmony of spirit and action.

Mr. Ambassador, fellow Archons, distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen of Turkey, how fitting it is, then, that the Archons of America honor the official representative of a nation, that more than any other in the world, reflects the unparalleled commitment to religious tolerance, religious freedom and human rights. Ambassador Edelman has distinguished himself throughout his diplomatic career representing the United States of America with distinction, dedication and discernment for forging closer ties between America and the country of service, whether it is Finland where he was our able ambassador, or the Czech Republic, or the former Soviet Union, or the Middle East or Turkey, where he now so ably serves in such challenging times. I now realize how Vice President Cheney must miss Ambassador Edelman’s counsel and strategic advice on national security matters and simultaneously realize why President Bush appointed and the United States Senate confirmed such a committed, experienced and talented diplomat to represent America in Turkey.

Ambassador Edelman, the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America, profoundly appreciate your willingness to promote religious tolerance and promote the concerns of the Orthodox Christians of America in such a way as to ensure a result that will benefit the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Turkey and the United States of America. God Bless Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.

God Bless Ambassador Edelman. God Bless Turkey and God Bless the United States of America.

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