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Today President Bill Clinton received a letter from Andrew A. Athens, president of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad (SAE), regarding this morning's terrorist bombing of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Istanbul, Turkey. Athens told the president that this attack, "the fourth such attack in recent years, has Orthodox Christians and other supporters of His All Holiness very concerned." Athens urged the President to "do everything possible to get the Prime Minister of Turkey, with whom you will soon be meeting, to assure effective protection of the Ecumenical Patriarch and the Ecumenical Patriarchate from this concerted effort."

Athens told President Clinton that, "I am currently in Thessaloniki, Greece with over 340 elected representatives of Hellenic communities around the world (an estimated seven million Hellenes in 141 countries) who have gathered for the second conference of the World Council of Hellenes Abroad, of which I am the world president. Each of us is asking our respective government to strongly urge the government of Turkey to provide effective protection for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and for His All Holiness."

Athens noted that, "early this morning an explosive device damaged the Ecumenical Patriarchate and sent a deacon to the hospital with shrapnel in his shoulder. In September of last year, the Patriarchate came under a terrorist attack in the form of a grenade and machine gun fire. The explosion tore off the corner of the roof of the Patriarchal Cathedral and blew the windows out of the sleeping quarters. In May of 1994 three very powerful bombs linked to a timing device were found and diffused only a few minutes before they were to detonate. Had this terrorist bomb exploded, the Ecumenical Patriarchate and everyone and everything within its walls would have been destroyed. Just two months before, two firebombs were hurled into the Ecumenical Patriarchate."

Athens concluded by saying, "This spiritual center for more than 300 million Orthodox Christians world-wide, including approximately five million in the United States, is in obvious danger. All civilized nations of this world have a vested interest in protecting this extraordinary religious leader who was described by the highest honor America can bestow, the Congressional Gold Medal, as an `apostle of love, peace and hope.'"

For more information, please contact Mike Manatos <> at (202) 393-7790.