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Statements by Members of the US Congress on the Holy and Great Council

Chairman Royce Commends Historic Orthodox Christian Churches Meeting

For Immediate Release

June 16, 2016

Washington, D.C. – House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) submitted the following remarks into the Congressional Record to commend the upcoming meeting of Orthodox Christian Churches, the first of its kind in over a millennium:

“Mr. Speaker, I rise to recognize the events taking place on the Greek island of Crete, where Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has called a historic meeting of Orthodox Christian Churches.

“This meeting, known as the Holy and Great Council, is the first of its kind in over a millennium. The fourteen Orthodox Christian Churches together have over 300 million followers around the world, including over a million Americans. These churches are self-governing but united by common dogma, faith, liturgy, and moral conviction, with the Ecumenical Patriarch serving as the ‘first among equals.’

“Three hundred and fifty leaders will attend this meeting, which is set to begin on Sunday and continue through June 26. They will discuss key issues facing Orthodox Christians, including the church’s mission in today’s world, the Orthodox diaspora, and relations with other Christian churches.

“Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew was elected in October 1991 as the 270th Archbishop of his 2000-year-old Church.  He holds numerous doctorates, including from Georgetown and Yale, and was awarded a Gold Medal by Congress in 1997.

“The Patriarch has a record of reaching out and working for peace and reconciliation among all faiths and has fostered dialogue among Christians, Jews, and Muslims. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Patriarch organized a gathering of religious leaders including Muslim Imams to condemn the attacks as an anti-religious act.

“Mr. Speaker, the over one million Orthodox Christians in the United States represent diverse backgrounds and cultures. I join them in celebrating this historic meeting.”

NOTE: Chairman Royce is an active member of the Hellenic Caucus.  Royce has also spoken out against the misdeeds wrought against the Ecumenical Patriarch and has authored legislation urging Turkey to respect the rights and religious freedoms of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.  Chairman Royce was previously recognized for his work on Greece, receiving the Pericles Award in 1999.

 

US Senator Ben Cardin's Statement on the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Christian Churches

For Immediate Release

21 June 2016

U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement in advance of the Holy and Great Council to be held in Greece.

"This weekend, I join Orthodox Christians in recognizing the beginning of the historic Holy and Great Council on the island of Crete, Greece. This marks the first time since the year 787 that the leaders of the Orthodox churches will gather together to discuss fundamental issues related to faith and morality.

"On the eve of this historic event, I honor the convener of this historic meeting, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. His All-Holiness has received awards from the United Nations, the United States, and other nations for providing moral leadership throughout modern history's greatest tests. His efforts to convene this Holy and Great Council is a testament to his continued leadership at a time when it is greatly needed.

"Greece is the appropriate place to convene the Holy and Great Council. Members of the Greek Orthodox Church led the first resistance that was able to defeat a thrust of Axis Forces during World War II, with one in 10 Greek Orthodox Christians in Greece losing their lives in the effort. And, Greek Archbishop Damaskinos was the only national religious leader in a Nazi-occupied country to publically challenge the Holocaust as it was occurring, with his actions saving the lives of thousands of Jews.

"Our world today is in need of this exceptional moral courage, and I applaud Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for convening this Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Christian Churches in Crete, Greece."

 

Statement by House Foreign Affairs Committee Member, Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-NY) recognizing the Holy and Great Council

For Immediate Release

21 June 2016

Mr. ZELDIN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Church.

Christianity and Orthodox Christianity, in particular, have suffered greatly in recent years. This negative development is the result of the Islamic fanaticism perpetuated by the Islamic State and other terror groups using the war in Syria as an excuse to ``ethnically cleanse'' Orthodox Christians from their villages. One such horror was the international broadcast of Islamic State members simultaneously beheading twenty-one Egyptians because they would not convert to Islam when ordered to denounce their Coptic Orthodox Christian faith.

Several Orthodox Christian Churches from around the world will gather in what is called a Great and Holy Council for the first time in over 1,000 years. The focus of the Council will be internal activities of the various Orthodox Churches; the current crisis for Christians in the Middle East is also a danger for so many Orthodox Christians and should not go unobserved at this history meeting.

All Christians and all men and women of faith and peace should focus on this Great and Holy Council and the individual who convened the various hierarchs, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. He possibly more than any other Christian leader understands the Muslim world; during his life he has seen Muslim cruelty toward Christians, which has greatly diminished the number of Christians in the Republic of Turkey.

The Ecumenical Patriarch experienced the 1955 pogrom carried out against the large Greek Orthodox community in Turkey. The pogrom resulted in many unnecessary Greek deaths and the destruction of
thousands of Greek Orthodox businesses, homes, and cemeteries. Thousands upon thousands of Greeks fled the country in the aftermath.

The Greek Orthodox community in Turkey has been reduced to a fraction of what it once was, yet in light of such violence, the confiscation of thousands of Ecumenical Patriarchal properties, and restrictions of religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarch, His All-Holiness has found ways to cooperate and work constructively with the Muslim majority in his homeland of Turkey. The Ecumenical Patriarch has much to bring to the table regarding today's crisis for Christians in Muslim majority countries.

 

Former Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, US Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) issues statement on the Holy and Great Council

For Immediate Release

21 June 2016

U.S. Senator Bob Menendez, senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, entered the following statement into the Congressional Record to mark the Great and Holy Council, a once-in-a-millennium meeting of Orthodox Christian Churches:

"Mr. President, once again Greece, the home of democracy, the home of the fundamental principle of religious freedom that democracy has come to represent here in America, is making history, this time on the Island of Crete where Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople is leading a meeting of Orthodox Christian Churches, The Great and Holy Council, that occurs only once-in-a-millennium. In fact, it has not happened since 787 CE, but is happening now.

"The three million Orthodox Christians across America, from all fourteen national jurisdictions around the world with the largest number affiliated with the Greek Orthodox Church -- the Church of the convener of the Council -- Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, are following this historic gathering with great anticipation.

"It is the charge of The Great and Holy Council to deal with internal church matters but, Orthodox Christians are also deeply concerned with the opportunity this historic event presents for a wider ranging conversation about not only process within the confines of religion, but the prospects for peace and prosperity it represents for all members of the Church and for all people around the world.

"Orthodox Christians in America come from all walks of life and represent all opinions and points-of-view. They include personalities well-known to all of us in this Chamber and beyond; ABC journalist and host of Good Morning America George Stephanopoulos; Huffington Post creator Arianna Huffington; and sportscaster Bob Costas. In the political world, they include former Governor of Massachusetts and Democratic nominee for President Mike Dukakis; Hillary Clinton's campaign chairman and former Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton, John Podesta; and current Members of Congress: Representative Dina Titus of Nevada and Nikki Tsongas of Massachusetts, as well as Congressmen John Sarbanes of Maryland and Gus Bilirakis of Florida.

"Mr. President, these are all respected, talented, accomplished Orthodox Christians whose faith and opinions are represented at the historic convocation of the Holy and Great Council. They are among the more than one million Greek Orthodox Americans who are led by their spiritual head, Archbishop Demetrios, who presides over seven Metropolitans with regional jurisdictions that serve on the local Holy Synod. The Archbishop and his predecessors have played a prominent role in American life, culture, and history that has been part of the fabric of this nation. We all remember the famous civil rights march in Selma, Alabama led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., but we may not remember that, at the march was also the late Archbishop Iakovos marching shoulder-to-shoulder with Dr. King.

"Mr. President, Greek-Americans, hailing from 500 churches across this nation, including many in my home state of New Jersey, believe deeply that this Great and Holy Council is a fateful gathering that can have a dramatic impact on their religion and civilization for one thousand more years, that The Council's deliberations will hold great meaning and great promise for a better life for all of us, for peace on this planet, and for the greater good of generations to come. They know, and we in this Chamber know, that the importance of Orthodox Christians will be measured not by the history made in Crete at this meeting, but the history Orthodox Christians around the world have already made.

"I join all of my colleagues in hoping for a successful and productive once-in-a-millennium session of the Great and Holy Council. I join with all of my Orthodox Christian friends in New Jersey and around the world in celebrating this historic meeting."

 

House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Democrat, Congressman Eliot Engel statement on the Holy and Great Council Meeting of the Orthodox Christian Churches

24 June 2016

Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today entered into the Congressional Record the following statement on the Great and Holy Council meeting of the Orthodox Christian Churches that began on Sunday:

"Mr. Speaker, I rise to congratulate the Orthodox Christian community, and recognize the historic Great and Holy Council meeting in Greece from June 19-26, 2016.

"Bringing together 350 leaders of 14 Orthodox Christian Churches from Istanbul to Antioch to Romania to Slovakia, this Council represents more than 300 million followers worldwide, including one million Americans. While Council attendees self-govern their churches, they remain united in their values, faith, liturgy, and following of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople.

"Under the leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarch, this is the first gathering of Orthodox churches in 1,200 years. The Council will underscore the direction, purpose, and mission of Orthodox Christian Churches. It is an opportunity to discuss the Diaspora and relations with other Christian churches worldwide.

"The Ecumenical Patriarch has an unsurpassed record for steering cooperative effort, adding this remarkable Council to his record of success. Often referred to as the "first among equals" by his followers, the Ecumenical Patriarch maintains collegial relations with other Patriarchs and hierarchical leaders. His effectiveness as a leader is complemented by his gracious and generous spirit.

"Mr. Speaker, at a time when religious division remains a source of conflict and suffering, I celebrate this Council for its message of unity, tolerance, and peace."

 

Statement by the Ranking Democrat on the powerful Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) on the Holy and Great Council

24 June 2016

U.S. Senator Barbara A. Mikulski (D-Md.) today issued the following statement, submitted to the Congressional Record, recognizing the Holy and Great Council gathering of Christian Orthodox churches taking place in Crete, Greece:

"Mr. President, I rise today to recognize the historic events taking place in Crete, Greece. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople has called the first Great and Holy Council of the various Christian Orthodox churches around the world since 787 CE.

"The Holy and Great Council is the first meeting of its kind in over a millennium. The 14 Orthodox Christian Churches together have over 300 million followers around the world, including over a million Americans. These churches are self-governing but united by common dogma, faith, liturgy and moral conviction, with the Ecumenical Patriarch serving as the 'first among equals.'

"This meeting began on Sunday, June 19 and will continue through June 26. There will be 350 leaders attending this meeting where they will promote unity among the world's Orthodox believers. They will discuss key issues facing Orthodox Christians, including the church's mission in today's world, the Orthodox diaspora and the relationship of Christian Orthodoxy with the rest of the Christian world.

"The Patriarch has a record of reaching out and working for peace and reconciliation among all faiths, and has fostered dialogue among Christians, Jews and Muslims. His All-Holiness has received awards from the United Nations, the United States and other nations for providing moral leadership throughout modern history's greatest tests. His efforts to convene this Holy and Great Council are a testament to his continued leadership at a time when it is greatly needed. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the Patriarch organized a gathering of religious leaders including Muslim Imams to condemn the attacks as an anti-religious act. He was also the first Ecumenical Patriarchate to attend the inauguration of a Pope.

"With so much suffering taking place around the world, we need people to come together -- like they are in this historic meeting -- and work to advance our shared values. I commend and thank Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for convening this Holy and Great Council of the Orthodox Christian Churches in Crete, Greece."