Shortly after Pentecost, the Apostle Andrew established the Christian Church in Byzantium. The Fifth Ecumenical Council established that the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Byzantium (later, Constantinople) would assume an equal role of primacy as the Church in Rome. That role has remained uninterrupted for over 1,700 years and today includes 300 million Christians around the world.
Following the Apostle Andrew, there have been 269 successor Ecumenical Patriarchs who serve as the spiritual head of the world-wide Greek Orthodox Church. Following the fall of Constantinople in 1453, our Church has been subject to constant persecution. But, some of the worst political persecution has occurred over the last 100 years. For example, at the turn of the last century, our Church held over 8,000 properties in Constantinople, had a flourishing theological school, and served the religious needs of over 250,000 Orthodox faithful within Turkey (in addition to the hundreds of millions around the world). Today, the government has misappropriated nearly all of those properties (the Church currently has less than 400 properties), shut down our theological school in the early 70’s and arbitrarily enacted laws which require that the selection of the Ecumenical Patriarch be submit to approval by the Turkish state. The policies of Turkey have resulted in only 3,000 Greek Orthodox faithful living in Constantinople today. In addition, the Ecumenical Patriarch is in constant jeopardy for his life. The Ecumenical Patriarchate has been bombed repeatedly, effigies have been burned of His All Holiness, and there have been repeated assassination attempts and plots on His life. Despite this, our Church perseveres.
The current spiritual head of our Church is Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I. Two years ago, Time magazine identified Him as one of the ten most influential people in the world. Because of the enormous respect He has a world-religious leader (and his constant efforts for environmentalism and interface peace), He was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by the United States House of Representatives. In fact, he received more votes for that honor than anyone in history (including Winston Churchill, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Theresa). He was recently featured in an extraordinary piece on 60 Minutes on the current state of our Church in Turkey. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/12/17/60minutes/main5990390.shtml.
Many faithful in the United States have endeavored to put pressure on the government of Turkey to give our Church what we take for granted here in our Country: religious freedom. This includes the United States Senate and the House Foreign Relations Committee which passed strongly worded resolutions in favor of the Ecumenical Patriarchate by calling for religious freedom in Turkey. In addition, a national effort is underway to obtain resolutions from each of the 50 states. To date, 39 such resolutions have been adopted by 34 states. Every large state in the country has passed such a resolution (New Jersey, California, Florida, New York, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Illinois, among others). Most recently, last week the North Dakota House of Representatives passed such a resolution. We are now attempting to pass a resolution in Texas, but have run into ferocious resistance by the Turks.
Attached (at the bottom of this document) is a copy of the proposed resolution for Texas. Please take a moment to review it. The facts stated in that resolution are undeniable. Despite this, the Turkish Lobby in Austin has engaged in a massive counter attack so that this resolution will not pass (including offering paid trips to Turkey to our legislators). We now are launching a grass-roots effort to tell our State Representatives that we want this resolution to pass.
Attached (at the bottom of this document) to this email are (1) the proposed resolution, (2) a one-page list of the issues affecting the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and (3) a form letter which you should sign and mail to your State Representative if you do not have the time to prepare your own letter. If nothing else, please print this letter today, address it to your state legislator and mail it as soon as possible. For those of you that do not know who your current State Representative is, you can easily obtain that information by going to the following link and simply typing in your address: http://www.fyi.legis.state.tx.us/.
Please do not delete this email and treat it as spam. The state representatives who currently are willing to assist us in passing this resolution made it clear that these letters are essential to overcome the well funded resistance orchestrated by the Turkish government. Every single letter that arrives in Austin will serve as a powerful message that Texas supports the basic concept of religious freedom and that the Ecumenical Patriarchate has a historical right to exist.
Because the current legislative session ends within the next month, we ask that you please send this letter today. If you want additional information regarding the Ecumenical Patriarchate, you can go to www.archons.org.
Because this issue has encountered such tremendous resistance from the Turkish government throughout the state of Texas, please forward this to any and all friends, family members and supporters of religious freedom throughout the state of Texas, including other Metropolitan areas such as Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, and elsewhere. When you do forward this email, please ask them to forward it on to people they know as well. Our goal is for the House of Representatives to receive well over 1,000 letters from families across the state of Texas. Finally, it would be great if we can encourage non-Orthodox Texans to send a letter as well because, after all, this is an issue of religious freedom for all faiths in Turkey (as evidenced by the recent beheading of a Catholic priest and the murder of 3 Protestant missionaries) and not just the Orthodox faith.
Have a blessed Lenten season,
Fr. Michael J. Lambakis, Dean
John Zavitsanos, Parish Council President
Copyright 2011. Annunciation Greek Orthodox Cathedral
3511 Yoakum Boulevard, Houston, Tx 77006 | Phone: (713) 526-5377 Fax: (713) 526-1048