NEWS

Patriarch plans interfaith summit in Istanbul this fall

UNITED NATIONS – The spiritual leader of the world’s 300 million Orthodox Christians announced plans for a conference this autumn of Christians, Jews and Muslims and endorsed a proposed UN resolution to condemn anti-Semitism. Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios, on a weeklong trip to the United States, discussed «peace around the globe» with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and met leaders of the World Jewish Congress. Speaking briefly to reporters after his half-hour meeting on Monday with Annan, the patriarch expressed hope that a united Cyprus will join the European Union, saying «peace in this part of the world will affect the situation in the Middle East.» The Orthodox Church has sponsored interfaith conferences to promote dialogue among the major religions in 1994 in Istanbul and in Brussels soon after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Vartholomaios said he told Annan «that we are preparing a new interfaith meeting with the participation of all three monotheistic religions, to be held in Istanbul next fall.» Vartholomaios said the secretary-general stressed that «religion has an important role to play for the establishment of permanent peace around the globe.» The patriarch, who has been pushing religious leaders and believers to make conservation an integral part of faith, said he had asked the secretary-general to support an international environmental symposium on the Caspian Sea in June 2005. Earlier, Vartholomaios met for 30 minutes with Edgar Bronfman, president of the World Jewish Congress, and Israel Singer, the congress chairman. The patriarch condemned religious fanaticism, terrorism and anti-Semitism and endorsed a proposed UN resolution to condemn anti-Semitism, said Elan Steinberg, executive vice president of the World Jewish Congress. «We are moving ahead with a dialogue between us,» Steinberg said. He said Vartholomaios and the congress also discussed the interfaith meeting later this year in Istanbul. Vartholomaios, who is based in Istanbul, oversees several Greek Orthodox churches around the world and is considered the spiritual leader of 14 Orthodox churches, including those of Russia, Greece, Albania, Bulgaria, Romania and Serbia. (AP Writer Amy Westfeldt contributed to this report from New York.)