Full page ads were placed in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, expressing support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate
New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
The Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have sent a strong message to Turkey, calling Ankara to stop the harassment of the Patriarchate and respect religious freedom, if this Muslim NATO ally wants to ever become a member of the European Union.
This clear message was sent to Turkey and the World through full page paid advertisement in the Thursdayʼs issue of New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, that reach millions of Americans and other citizens around the World.
The text is signed by the National Commander of the Archons Dr. Anthony Limberakis and the Chairman of the Religious Freedom Committee of the order John Catsimatidis.
“Turkey must understand religious tolerance and admission to the European Union go hand in hand. One cannot occur without the other”, the Archons state, thanking by name all 73 US Senators who signed a letter, just before Pope Benedictʼs arrival in Turkey, last month, expressing their support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and for religious freedom in Turkey.
They also name the 27 Senators who did not sign the letter.
“The 300 million Orthodox Christians throughout the world ask why the following US Senators have not signed on for religious freedom and urge them to reconsider their position”.
Amongst those the senators are, Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, Former Republican Majority leader Trent Lott, Foreign Relations Committee Chairman (and up to now a steady supporter of Greece, Cyprus and the Patriarchate) Richard Lugar, pro-Turkish veteran Senator (his son in law is Turkish) Robert Byrd etc.
“Any of those 27 senators who are upset that they may appear as antichristian, are welcome to sign the documents affirming religious freedom. If they do so, we are taking another ad in the first quarter of 2007 thanking them for signing”, John Catsimatidis told Greek News.
Catsimatidis said the idea was formulated at the last Archon meeting between Commander Anthony Limberakis, himself, George Behrakis, Michael Jaharis, Harry Pappas, Angelo Tsakopoulos and few others who decided to move forward with the ads.
“It was because of the Popeʼs visit to the Patriarchate and the advocacy of the Pope for religious freedom. There is a lack of religious freedom in Turkey. We told everyone, we are not against the Turkish people. We are only against Turkish governmentʼs actions against our Church and other religions in Turkey. How Turkey ever hope to become a member of the EU if it will not act according to the European rules?”
The ad call Pope Benedict and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew “Apostles of Peace”.
“In this season of goodwill, we are thankful that two of the most revered spiritual leaders of the Christian world, Pope Benedict XVI and Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, at their historic meeting last month in Istanbul provided such a moving and powerful demonstration of the desperate need for peace and understanding in the world today.
Their efforts to bring Christians closer together, to reach out to Moslems and to show that violence in the name of religion is violence against religion itself, proved that they are vital forces for peace and reconciliation between different faiths and cultures.
We appreciate the support the Pope declared for Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, the spiritual leader of the second largest Christian communion in the world.
The efforts the Pontiff made to relieve painful pressures on the Ecumenical Patriarchate exerted by misguided forces in Turkey who do not understand the great asset the Ecumenical Patriarchate is in the efforts of the Turkish people to achieve a place in the family of European nations”.
The impact of the ad was huge, according to Catsimatidis, who is expecting the pressure to mount on the senators who didnʼt sign for religious freedom in Turkey.
“Everybody is calling from the whole world, after we placed the ads, especially our Senators in Washington. Seventy three senators signed up, demanding religious freedom in Turkey. Twenty three senators did not sign. Three hundred million Orthodox Christian are asking the question: why these 27 senators have not sign? Are they against Christians? Are they against religious freedom?”
The cost of the ads was covered by private funds. Catsimatidis said, “the cost was shared by 6-7 individuals who were dedicated to the fact that we were doing the right thing for our Church and our people”.
Although the cost of the ads was kept confidential, the retail price for full page ads in prominent position in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune is $ 204,000. But, the ads were given at a discount rate.
One of the questions raised was, what if Turkey decides to retaliate against the Patriarchate.
“The Ecumenical Patriarch had nothing to do with the ad”, Catsimatidis said. “It was a bunch of Americans that had to do with it. If Turkey decides to retaliate, “boy, we will have a newspaper ad every week”.