UWIdata has obtained the details of the meeting between Archbishop Elpidophoros of America (Ioannis Lambriniadis) of the Greek Orthodox (Fener) Patriarchate of Istanbul, and US President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence on July 23, 2020, one day before the opening of the Hagia Sophia Mosque.
Elpidophoros, who is a citizen of the Republic of Turkey, was inducted as the Archbishop of America by the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Istanbul under the auspice of ecumenism on June 22, 2019.
HUMAN RIGHTS AND RELIGIOUS FREEDOMS
In the report regarding the meeting held at the White House on 23 July 2020, it was stated that Elpidophoros had told Trump and Pence about their “concerns over the seizure of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Istanbul and the Greek Orthodox community, and turning Hagia Sophia into a mosque.”
According to the press, expressing “his concern about the issue of the protection of human rights and especially religious freedoms of minorities in Turkey”, Trump stressed that “he would proceed immediately with the necessary interventions.”
After the talks, Archbishop Elpidophoros made the following statement:
“I am grateful to have met with President Trump and VP Pence in the White House and communicated our grave dismay at the re-conversion of Hagia Sophia into a mosque, as well as ongoing security concerns for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and issues of religious liberty.
In view of tomorrow’s day of mourning, we persevere in prayer but also bring our struggle to the highest levels of authority.”
US Vice President Mike Pence tweeted as follows:
“As I told Archbishop Elpidophoros today, America will stand firm with the Greek Orthodox Church in the call for Hagia Sophia to remain accessible as a source of inspiration and reflection for every person of every faith.”
Protecting Religious Freedom at home and abroad is a foreign policy priority for the United States of America. We cherish the faith and charitable works of the 1.5 million members of the Greek Orthodox Church in the United States.
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) July 23, 2020
“UNDER THE PRESSURE OF THE ISLAMIC REGIME”
According to information reaching UWIdata from sources that play a role in the relationship between the US and the Patriarchate, during the talks, Elpidophoros told the US president and vice president that he was directly appointed by Patriarch Bartholomew, that the Patriarch was in a difficult situation, and that he was unable to criticize President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In the words of Elpidophoros, Bartholomew, as a Turkish citizen living in Istanbul, was constantly oppressed by the “Islamist regime”.
“ANKARA’S DECISIONS SERVE THE PURPOSE OF MOSCOW”
The representative of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Istanbul in the United States also said at the meeting that Erdogan’s actions broke the authority of the Patriarchate in the international arena and weakened Bartholomew’s leadership position in the Orthodox community across the world. Informant sources draw attention to the following words Elpidophoros made during the meeting in the White House:
“The decisions taken by Ankara are indirectly in the interest of the Russian Orthodox Church, such that they weaken the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Istanbul in its conflict with Moscow, including over the Ukrainian issue.”
During the meeting, indicating to Trump and Pence that Washington and the Patriarchate had been partners from the past, Elpidophoros added that the Patriarchate of Istanbul showed its commitment to the United States by recognizing the separation of the Ukrainian Church from Russia in line with the secret request of the White House.
REQUEST FOR SANCTIONS ON TURKEY, SUPPORT FOR GREECE
Elpidophoros, who is a citizen of the Republic of Turkey, requested that Trump show Erdogan maximum pressure and even demanded the implementation of sanctions on Ankara. According to Bartholomew’s representative, these sanctions will play an effective role in the protection of the Patriarchate and show the world the Patriarchate’s strong ties with the political centers of the West. On the other hand, according to Elpidophoros, Trump’s showing of Christian solidarity will give positive results in terms of votes before the presidential elections in the US.
Another striking point during the talks is that Elpidophoros, who identifies Turkey’s gas exploration activities in Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean as provocative, requested the American administration support Greece and the Greek Cypriot Administration of Southern Cyprus against Turkey.
TURKISH CITIZENS AND THE PATRIARCHAL CANDIDATE
Archbishop Elpidophoros of America of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Istanbul is not an ordinary person. He is seen as the successor of Bartholomew, who is already quite old. He is a supporter of the Democratic Party in the US. He played an important role in the signing of the decree “tomos”, which gave “Autocephaly” (independence) to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, in early 2019.
The position and activities of Elpidophoros are in full compliance with US policies of interfering with the internal affairs of other countries under the pretext of “religious freedom” and “minority rights”.
“TRUMP: I AM A HELPER AND SUPPORTER OF HELLENISM”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s request to review Ankara’s decision on Hagia Sophia is also meaningful in this respect. The following statements should be evaluated in this context after the meeting, which the details were announced in one of the prominent Greek website “Greek Reporter”:
“Donald Trump declared himself a helper and supporter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and personally of Patriarch Bartholomew, as well as of Hellenism.”
“THE SUCCESS OF THE PATRIARCH”
Elpidophoros accused the Turkish government of endangering the Christian and Jewish minority in the interviews he gave after the meeting. The organization of the Greek Orthodox in the US, which is under the Fener Patriarchate, evaluated Ankara’s decision as belittling Christians in Turkey and the Christian heritage in this country in the statement made in the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle. They also considered Turkey as being among the countries who violate religious freedom in the report of the US Department of State regarding international religious freedom, as the success of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Istanbul.
During the days when the talks between the White House and the Patriarchate were happening, the United States House of Representatives consented to a bill envisaging sanctions to be imposed on Turkey due to the purchase of Russia’s S-400 air defense systems.
AT THE HEAD OF THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST TURKEY
In parallel with all the developments, it is clearly seen that the Archbishop of America, which is bound to the Fener Patriarchate of Istanbul, accelerates anti-Turkey works. The narrative is being pushed that this decision will create pressure upon the minorities in Turkey. However, introducing this as an as a move towards minorities by Elpidophoros does not have a meaning other than launching a campaign against Turkey.
THE ARMENIAN-PONTUS ‘GENOCIDE’
This attitude of Elpidophoros is actually not surprising.
Elpidophoros’s opposition to Turkey has a long history. Ioannis Lambriniadis was born in Istanbul, and spent his youth in Aleppo. Here he was in close contact with the Armenian and Maronite Churches. He is a supporter of the idea of the “Armenian genocide” and is engaged in intensive activities pushing for the recognition of “genocide” in the US.
Sources state that he kept silent during the period of his stay in Turkey.
However, when he arrived in the US, he became quite bold. He openly defends Hellenism and always targets the Turkish government.
Sources in the United States underline that Archbishop Elpidophoros’ participation in the genocide commemoration has become commonplace. Elpidophoros’ predecessor, Archbishop Dimitri, also appeared at these events.
On the other hand, Elpidophoros actively spouts “Pontus genocide” propaganda.
When Elpidophoros was appointed as the bishop of Bursa in 2011, he did not hesitate to make a Byzantine map of the city where no Greeks lived, and to publish leaflets in Greek and English.
RELATIONS WITH THE GREEK GOVERNMENT
Sources point out that Elpidophoros also established close ties with the Greek government since he was sent to the US. In fact, the Greek Foreign Minister of the time, Georgios Katrougalos, attended the coronation ceremony on June 22, 2019. At the ceremony, the new archbishop was praised for his support of Hellenism.
Visiting the United States in January 2020, Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis had not neglected to meet with Archbishop Elpidophoros alongside Trump and other officials. Moreover, during this visit, 2 million Euro annual aid was announced by the Greek government to the Greek Orthodox School (Hellenic College Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology) of the Greek Orthodoxy Patriarchate of Istanbul’s Archbishop of America. This news was met with reaction even in Greece. The Greek government’s budget for school in the United States was much higher than for its own universities.
However, for Athens, Elpidophoros and the Archdiocese of America were strategically important and resources could always be found. The aid, of course, would not remain unrequited, it would be accelerated in anti-Turkey activities in the US, especially in the Eastern Mediterranean, and sanctions issues.
“In the cooperation between Greece and Cyprus, we are ready to move in every direction in order to protect our country and the interests of our nation,” said Elpidophoros, citizen of the Republic of Turkey, in his statement on the relations between Greece and South Cyprus, on June 23, 2020.
HE KNEW ABOUT THE 15 JULY COUP ATTEMPT
Along with all these, the Patriarchate’s FETÖ connections are also worth noting. Based on reliable sources, the Turkish newspaper Aydınlık, dated August 9, 2016, wrote the following:
“Another interesting information about the day of the coup is about the Greek Patriarch Bartholomew. According to reports, the Fener Patriarch left Turkey for 3 hours before the coup. The sources of the region found that Bartholomew certainly did not land in Slovakia, although they reported that he was traveling to Slovakia. Some sources state that the Patriarch knew about the coup beforehand and went to an American base in the region.
Bartholomew’s bond with FETO goes back to “Interfaith Dialogue.” It is noted that this relationship continues. The tie between Fethullah Gülen and Patriarch Bartholomew is Alex Karloutsos, the Greek Orthodox Assistant Archbishop of America. It is reported that Karloutsos visited Fethullah Gülen at regular intervals.”
KARLOUTSOS TOOK GÜLEN TO THE US
New information on this topic has surfaced lately. We have learned that Henry J. Barkey, who is among the important names of the organization during the days of the coup attempt in Turkey, met with Elpidophoros as well. Meanwhile, sources underline that Barkey’s wife, Ellen Laibson, with whom he was in Istanbul at the time, was also a CIA agent.
In addition, Alexander Karloutsos, the influential cleric affiliated to the Fener Patriarchate of Istanbul, whose name was mentioned in our report on August 9th 2016, is the person who helped US diplomat and CIA member Graham Fuller and George Fidas kidnap Fethullah Gülen to the USA in 1999. He played a role in taking high-level FETO members abroad after the coup attempt of July 15th 2016.
THEY CONTROL THE FLOW OF MONEY FROM THE US TO THE PATRIARCHATE
Karloutsos has had close ties with the leading figures of the Greek and Ukrainian diaspora in the US and with the American secret services since the 1990s at the latest. The management of the financial resources flowing from the Greek and Ukrainian religious organizations in the US to the Greek Orthodoxy Patriarchate of Istanbul is concentrated in his hands. Karloutsos is also an important figure in relations with American democrats, traditionally supported by the Greek diaspora in the US.
The sources state that Karloutsos is quite suitable for use by its American friends. After all, there are many shortcomings in the gold business. He was involved in corruption in the construction of the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church. Elpidophoros is trying to hide this corruption.
Alexander Karloutsos is also a consultant to the foundation “Faith: An Endowment for Orthodoxy and Hellenism”. His son Archon Michael Karloutsos was the head of the US state’s protocol office. Karloutsos plays a serious role in paving the way for Elpidophoros.
ELPIDOPHOROS’S RELATIONS IN THE USA
The attachment of the US authorities for Elpidophoros is based on his years in Turkey. When he was appointed as the Bishop of Bursa in 2011, he met with Philip Gordon, Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs. Gordon is a name with close ties to the US secret services.
The first official to visit Archbishop Elpidophoros after his appointment to the US was Sam Brownback, United States Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. At the meeting on June 28, 2019, Elpidophoros would say that “I am delighted that our government in Washington supports our spiritual father, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and our spiritual center.”
The Greek cleric also has close ties with the wife of the former CIA chief, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Susan Pompeo is a member of the Archdiocese of America of the Greek Orthodoxy Patriarchate of Istanbul, as a Greek Orthodox.
HIS ROLE IN THE DECISION AGAINST “ZEYTIN DALI” AND “BARIŞ PINARI”
In June 2020, Elpidophoros also managed to influence the decision prepared by the United States Commission International on Religious Freedom using its connections with American intelligence. In the decision, Turkey was directly accused due to the deeds of armed opponents of Syria during the operations “Olive Branch” and “Peace Spring”.
As stated by the same sources, within the framework of the information given by Elpidophoros, it was recorded that the Turks supposedly exerted mass pressure on the ethnic-religious minorities in the region (Kurd, Maroni and Syrian Orthodox (Yacoubian)). Pro-Turkey armed groups and members of the Turkish army performed these actions, and consequently tens of thousands of people were forced to emigrate. It is also stated in the report that Turks prohibit the representatives of other religions in Syria from openly performing their religious duties. The makers of the decision also called on the US administration to put pressure on the Turkish government.
BARTHOLOMEW’S PREPARATIONS FOR THE VISIT TO THE US
Sources, who are direct witnesses of the developments, also state that Elpidophoros prepared Bartholomew’s visit to Washington and his meeting with Trump. With the assignment of the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Elpidophoros’ main objectives from this visit are as follows: Bartholomew’s bringing forward that Turkey restricts religious freedom, and calling on the US to stop Turkey’s Eastern Mediterranean policy and to impose sanctions on Ankara.
THE FENER PATRIARCHATE OF ISTANBUL IS RULED FROM THE US
On the other hand, although the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Istanbul is an institution located in Turkey, its most populous and richest dioceses are in the US and Canada. These are united under the Archdiocese of America and are the most important source of money for the Greek Orthodoxy Patriarchate of Istanbul. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church in the US and Canada recently joined them.
Therefore, the Archdiocese of America has become the main administrative center of the Greek Orthodoxy Patriarchate of Istanbul with its strong ties with the rich and influential Greek and Ukrainian diaspora in the US and more importantly with the American state. It is not that Fener ruled the Archdiocese of America, but the opposite which is the case.
A THREAT TO TURKEY AND THE REGION
Now, Elpidophoros is the most important candidate to replace 80-year-old Bartholomew. Elpidophoros has proven that he can show the maximum benefit in the realization of Washington’s plans against regional countries, primarily Turkey. On the other hand, he is very interested in the financial support of the US. Elpidophoros is planning to receive Washington’s support on controversial matters between the Patriarchate and Turkey such as the Theological School of Halki. Although he is a citizen of the Republic of Turkey, the Greek clergy positions himself at the head of the anti-Turkey front in all vital issues.
It is crystal clear that not only Elpidophoros, but all of the activities of the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Istanbul in cooperation with the United States are designed to leave Turkey in a difficult situation in the international arena. During a visit of a Russian delegation to the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Istanbul which I accompanied in September 2018, it was a clear and important example showing audacity of the Patriarchate that a senior man of God could pronounce stern words about Turkey in front of his guests even though he knew there was a Turk among them. With the rise of tensions between Turkey and the US, it appears that this attitude became sharper in the light of the above. The Patriarchate treated Ankara as an enemy on critical issues such as Syria, the Eastern Mediterranean, Aegean and FETÖ beyond just being one of the centers of the anti-Turkey propaganda regarding matters such as religious freedoms.
Along with these, the Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Istanbul has started to be used as a weapon of the US against Russia. The recognition of the independence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church was a move by the Atlantic front against Russia rather than a religious step.
This should serve as a warning for Ankara that the US is using an institution bound to Fatih Prefecture against Turkey and Russia, its strategic ally.