Orthodox Priest Beheading and Recent White House Omission Lead to Call for American Protection of Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch Meeting in Turkey

Yesterday's reported beheading of an Orthodox Priest and a recent White House omission during a meeting between President George W. Bush and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan increased concerns about protecting the spiritual heads of the two largest Christian denominations, while in Turkey together.

Catholicism's Pope Benedict XVI and Orthodoxy's Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be meeting in Turkey in late November. Turkey is the first Muslim country that Pope Benedict will visit. Until the year 1054, the Pope and Ecumenical Patriarch were presiding Patriarchs of the then-undivided Christian Church, in Rome and Constantinople.

Muslim extremists connected the Orthodox and Catholic faiths as they reportedly beheaded an Orthodox priest on Thursday, October 12 in Iraq because the Orthodox Church did not condemn Pope Benedict's recent remarks about the Prophet Mohammad. Turkey's extremist group, the Grey Wolves, has long focused on these two Christian faiths. One of their members, Mehmet Ali Agca, shot Pope John Paul II and, in recent years, they are suspected in bombings aimed at Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. The Pope and the Ecumenical Patriarch will soon celebrate the feast day of St. Andrew together in Muslim Turkey.

These events and concerns about a major White House omission were raised in a letter to President Bush and Administration and Congressional leaders, from Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis, the head of American lay leaders of the Christian Orthodox Church in the Order of St. Andrew. The Order includes distinguished members such as U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes and businessman and owner of the San Diego Chargers Alex Spanos.

The letter said, "This is the first time in well over a decade that an American President did not raise with the Turkish Prime Minister the crisis that is leading to the Muslim world's expulsion of the Ecumenical Patriarch -- the spiritual head of Christianity's second largest denomination. The timing of removing the crisis facing the Ecumenical Patriarchate from the normal list of White House concerns, and the message that this sends to dangerous elements in Turkey, is disconcerting.

For more information contact Mike Manatos at 202-393-7790

(Posting date 6 November 2006)

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