Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew: ‘God Bless America’

Bravo! On Oct. 31, the Patriarch closes his speech at the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle Annual Banquet at New York’s Waldorf Astoria Hotel with these words:

Our Orthodox Christian faith has lived and thrived in this nation for generations, from the first Greeks who came to New Smyrna in the 18th Century, to the first Orthodox parish in America in New Orleans, which was founded in 1863, and flourishes to this day and which we have just visited for the second time.

America is a land and, indeed, an idea that offers to every soul the freedom to express one’s own religious conviction. and this is surely the most basic of inalienable human rights. We are profoundly grateful for the blessings that have been afforded all Orthodox Christians in this great country. And for this we say, may God bless the Orthodox Christians in this United States and may God bless America.



  1. George Michalopulos :

    So, since we’ve been here for so long, are we ready for autocephaly? Curious though, no mention about the first Orthodox Christians in North America. You know, in 1794 in Alaska? The lack of seriousness continues to astound.

  2. He does such things deliberately, as do all the GOA hierarchs.

    To them, the OCA barely exists, and the Church in Alaska, while laudable, is really not Orthodox…because it isn’t Greek.

    BTW, the ‘New Orleans parish’, really? Where is it? Where did it go?

    I thought so.

  3. George Michalopulos :


    that’s sad. This assessment, if true, does not bode well for the upcoming Episcopal Assembly. (Think “SCOBA: Next Generation.”) I was hoping that the New Orleans parish issue had been laid to rest: Ukranian “priest”(?), Tsarist endowment, Slav and Arab parishioners, English language…ouch!

  4. George Michalopulos :

    As a Greek-Amerioan, I was fascinated as a child by the “Greek Plymouth Rock.” Then I looked into it and saw that this in way could be considered as something so foundational. In the Deep South, the descendants of this mixed-bag of Corsicans, Greeks, etc. are called “Minorcans.” Other than some Greek DNA, they’ve got absolutely no Hellenic sentiments or more importantly, Orthodox religion.

    Not to take anything away from them, but if we’re gonna play this childish game, then Semyenov actually discovered the Aleutian islans in 1638 but kept it secret from the Tsarist government. From that time until 1794, Siberian fur-trappers settled there, married indigenous women, and raised Orthodox children. That’s one reason why the Alaskans were so receptive to the Sitka Missionaries. And, as the author points out, these people remained Orthodox whereas the “Minorcans” lost their religion.

    Parenthetically, does anybody know if all of these Greeks were actually Orthodox? There was a significant Uniate minority among the Greek people during this time. The great Greek explorer Ioannis Fokas for example, was a Catholic Christian. He is known by his Spanish name, Juan de Fuca and a straight in the Pacific Northwest is named after him (as is a tectonic plate if memory serves).

    • Michael Bauman :

      In addition to the historical untruth, there is a deeper problem.

      I think we must be careful with the word freedom, espeically religious freedom. All too often it becomes a shackle. The EP says,

      America is a land and, indeed, an idea that offers to every soul the freedom to express one’s own religious conviction. and this is surely the most basic of inalienable human rights.

      While this is better than ‘free to worship as one pleases’ it still tends to place religion in the realm of the individual’s own preference. Such placement means, among other things, that evangelization is frowned upon, if not forbidden in the name of religious freedom.

      I asked one other poster several weeks ago to define religious freedom. There was no response. I suspect I should have questioned the idea more deeply prior to signing the Manhattan Declaration. What is the intent of the drafters of the Declaration when they speak of religious freedom? Is it the absolute right to evangelize or the right to be protected from evangelization? Is it the right to proclaim what is offensive in culture and another faith (hopefully with love) or is it the right to be protected from all challenges? Does it mean that a traditional faith understanding has the right to be heard in the public square or does it mean that only the secular view is to be tolerated because any traditional view ‘offends’ the belief of others.

      To me, if ‘religious freedom’ means anything it means the courage to practice as fully as one is able one’s faith regardless of the consequences. It does not mean the elimination of consequences. More to the point it does not eliminate the prospect that my faith may and ought to offend others (as it offends me in my sin). We have that, if we reach for it. It does not and cannot come from the state, only by the grace of God.

      The U.S. Constitution prohibits the Congress from making any law that establishes a religion OR prohibts the free exercise of religion. Such freedom means, for Christians at least, the imperitive to evangelize and to express our faith in all environments. I think we tread a dangerous, egalitarian and secular road when we use the language of human rights to attempt to guarantee in law the rights of everyone ‘to their own belief’ Such language is utter nonesense from a Christian perspective. It is atheistic in content for if everyone has their own belief and all are equally valid, there is no “God with us”, no Incarnation, no salvation, no sin or righteousness.

      If the Incarnation of our Lord, God, and Savior, Jesus Christ (fully man and fully God) is an objective reality as we profess, then we must proclaim with the psalmist:
      “Submit yourself all ye nations, for God is with us!

      Christ is Born!

    • Michael Bauman :

      The Constitutional prohibition on laws that restrict the free exercise of religion are problematic when one considers such practices as the killing of converts, temple prostitutes, and (for PETA) animal sacrifice.

      So I find a compelling need to examine the very idea of religious freedom and would like others to offer their ideas and understanding of said.

    • I posted a reply on Orthodoxhistory: we are talking about only a few dozen Greeks and perhaps only one man and his son as Orthodox, Demetrious Fundulakis.
      The rest were either uniate, starting with the colony’s proprietor’s wife, or converted/intermarried into the Latin church.

  5. George Michalopulos :

    Isa, keep up the good work. I didn’t realize that the majority of these Greeks were not Orthodox (although I suspected as much). As usual, what is really objectionable about this historical vignette is not the actors involved but that the EP would rest his already tenuous claim over North America based on such a thin reed as that.


  1. […] true beginning of Orthodoxy in America. For instance, here’s Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew just a couple of months ago: Our Orthodox Christian faith has lived and thrived in this nation for generations, from the first […]

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