July 26, 2018

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WASHINGTON – His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, at the invitation of the Secretary of State of the United States Mike Pompeo, participated in the first-ever Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom, July 24-26, 2018, held at the State Department.

Archbishop Demetrios, addressing the plenary meeting on July 25, raised the issue of religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and in particular said that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is deprived, first of a legal status which limits its ability to exercise its duties and ministry; secondly the Ecumenical Patriarchate has suffered a massive confiscation of its properties buildings, and land; and thirdly, the Ecumenical Patriarchate had only one theological school, located on the island of Halki, which has been closed by the Turkish authorities for almost 50 years and remains closed, despite the efforts of many people and countries in the West, including repeated appeals by U.S. Presidents. As the Patriarchal Theological School of Halki remains closed, said the Archbishop, the Ecumenical Patriarchate is deprived of the ability to educate its own clergy, which is clearly a violation of its religious freedom.

The Archbishop’ s remarks were very well received by the Plenary and the participants applauded his call for action in support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

The Ministerial convened a broad range of stakeholders from eighty countries, including foreign ministers, ambassadors, international organization representatives, religious leaders, and civil society representatives, to discuss challenges, identify concrete ways to combat religious persecution and discrimination, and ensure greater respect for religious freedom for all.

On the sidelines of the Ministerial conference, His Eminence had the opportunity to meet with several officials including Sam Brownback, United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom; John J. Sullivan, Deputy Secretary of State; Knox Thames, Special Advisor for Religious Minorities in the Near East and South/Central Asia; and religious and political leaders from around the world.

John J. Sullivan, Deputy Secretary of State hosted in the evening of Wednesday, July 25, a reception for the participants of the Ministerial at the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department.  

Today, the last day of the conference, Archbishop Demetrios attended the introductory address of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the very comprehensive Keynote Address of Vice President Mike Pence.

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