Archdiocese Applauds President and Congress for Legislation That Recognizes Integrity and Freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
Oct 23, 1998
NEW YORK - The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America applauds the legislation that was passed by both the House and Senate (October 20th and 21st respectively) and signed into law by the President on October 21st, recognizing the integrity and freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. The full text of Section 2804 of the Omnibus Bill within which this "sense of Congress" is contained reads as follows:
"It is the sense of Congress that the United States should use its influence with the Government of Turkey to suggest that the Government of Turkey -
1)recognize the Ecumenical Patriarchate and its nonpolitical, religious mission;
2)ensure the continued maintenance of the institution'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;
3)provide for the proper protection and safety of the Ecumenical Patriarch and Patriarchate personnel; and
4)reopen the Ecumenical Patriarchate's Halki Patriarchal School of Theology.
When he received the news of the passage of this legislation, His Eminence, Archbishop Spyridon, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and Exarch of the Ecumenical Throne in the Western Hemisphere, issued the following statement:
"On behalf of all the Greek Orthodox Christians of the United States, and all people who love freedom, I express our deepest thanks to the Honorable Members of Congress and to the President for making this legislation possible. This sense of Congress express the hopes and dreams of countless Greek Orthodox Christians, clergy and laypeople alike, who have labored tirelessly for many years to bring into the national consciousness the issue of the freedoms, rights, and privileges of our Holy Mother Church, the Great Church of Christ our beloved Ecumenical Patriarchate. The Ecumenical Patriarchate is a spiritual institution of world-wide significance, whose only mission is that of our Lord Jesus Christ. 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. 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. May God bless them and may He ever protect and defend our Holy Mother Church."