Washington, D.C.- The leaders of America’s effort to bring religious freedom to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, Turkey planned strategy in Washington, D.C last week with the leaders of the Archon’s “Religious Freedom Project” – Dr. Anthony Limberakis, Father Alex Karloutsos, and Andy Manatos, who are respectively the National Commander, spiritual advisor and Washington coordinator for the 700 member-strong Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of the Order of St. Andrew.
The Washington leaders included Congressman Henry Hyde (R-IL), the Chairman of the House International Relations Committee. Chairman Hyde’s committee adopted earlier this year a resolution authored by Congressman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) that specified the tragic problems facing the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the need to press for improvement. The full U.S. House of Representatives adopted Chairman Hyde’s bill, containing this resolution, and it is now pending in the U.S. Senate. The Chairman expressed again his willingness to offer assistance.
Undersecretary of Defense Eric Edelman also met with these Archon leaders. His valuable experience with the Ecumenical Patriarchal issue during his service as U.S. Ambassador to Turkey, and his present interface with Turkey’s military, make his input and involvement particularly important.
Assistant Secretary of State Dina Powell also met with the group. Through her recent visit with His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul, Turkey, along with Undersecretary of State for Public Diplomacy, Karen Hughes, she has an up-to-date understanding of the problem. She expressed her great willingness to lend her support to America’s efforts to secure religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Archon leaders also met with Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Matt Bryza to discuss what actions might be taken to encourage Turkey to correct this problem. Bryza, with whom these leaders have worked for years in his previous position as the National Security Council’s Director for Aegean Affairs, visited with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Turkey twice in recent months.
The Archons also planned strategy with the experts at the Helsinki Commission on the subject of religious freedom in Turkey. This is the organization that held a hearing in March of this year on this subject. This hearing featured: His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios; Dr. Limberakis; Roman Catholic Archbishop of Washington, D.C., His Eminence Cardinal Theodore McCarrick; Holocaust survivor and President of the Appeal of Conscience Foundation, Rabbi Schneier; and General Secretary of the National Council of Churches, Dr. Robert Edgar. They were as well the forum in Warsaw, Poland where the Order, in the person of Dr. Spiro Macris, presented the Ecumenical Patriarchal problems to the religious rights leaders of the 55 countries who are members of the Helsinki Commission.