Official meetings of the IAO Presidium in Sofia
The Fall meeting of the IAO International Secretariat and the Regulation Amendment Committee was held at the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria in Sofia, 24 November 2023. Members of Parliaments – Members of the IAO from Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Jordan, Cyprus, Hungary, Poland and Romania participated to the meeting.
The head of the Bulgarian parliamentary delegation to the IAO Mr. Radomir Cholakov, welcomed the IAO Members while the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee for Human Rights and Religious Affairs, Mr. Georgi Georgiev, addressed the participants on behalf of the President of the Bulgarian National Assembly, Mr. Rosen Zeliazkov.
In the context of the meeting, the IAO Secretary General, during his presentation on the future activities, stated: “I am pleased to announce that the Academy of Athens, the emblematic “temple of knowledge” of Greece, unanimously decided to award the Volume on the Hagia Sophia Churches, published by the Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy. This is a commendation that conveys exceptional honor to our Organization and a testament that the efforts and struggles we make are recognized by intellectuals”.
The Secretary-General made special reference to the war in the Middle East “where a war has been raging for a month, leading to humanitarian disaster in the region. This armed conflict is additional to the already open and fading wound in the European Continent Continent, which is the brutal war between two orthodox peoples, which is unfolding after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.”
The Secretary General, in his presentation of the upcoming activities for the next six months announced that “other anniversary events are being planned – and we are thinking of combining them with the presentation of the Volume for the Churches of Hagia Sophia – in Belgium, Germany, North Macedonia, Moldova, Albania and Australia.
The anniversary activities will be completed with the realization of two conferences in Athens and Thessaloniki, where we plan to organize an international conference in the spring with the subject: “Politics as a space for the expression of Christian values in everyday life”. In the same context, we wish to hold a similar conference in Athens in collaboration with the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens on the topic “Interparliamentary Assembly on Orthodoxy (1993-2023): Unity of the Orthodox through the IAO experience”. It will also be an important event in the context of the celebration of our 30 years of operation.”
The IAO Presidium held official meetings in Sofia:
Meeting with the President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria Mr. Rosen Zhelyazkov
An official meeting was held by the IAO Secretary General Dr. Maximos Charakopoulos, the President of the General Assembly, Mr. Eugeniusz Czykwin, the head of the Bulgarian delegation to the IAO, Mr. Radonir Cholakov, and the IAO Advisor Dr. Kostas Mygdalis, with the President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria. Mr. Rosen Zhelyazkov.
The President of the National Assembly of the Republic of Bulgaria emphasized, inter-alia: “in recent decades we see that new generations are not so traditional, we are talking about generation Z and the Millennium. They are generations that do not have recollection of the horrors of war. Who increasingly live in a digital and not a real world, and they are furtherly distanced from comprehending the essence of faith. And the work of the IAO should focus precisely on young people and on the policies that parliaments can support to promote values that, unfortunately, are increasingly at the margins of society. That is why the tasks and responsibilities of this organization are becoming more and more important”.
The IAO Secretary General in turn stated that: “The European institutions started a dialogue on the future of Europe. In this dialogue, in which we sought to have a substantial contribution, there is no reference to the concepts of religion, Christianity, Church and their influence to shaping of European culture. We seek, in cooperation with other parliamentary organizations and institutions of civil society, to highlight this issue in the future and in view of the European elections we will undertake specific initiatives”.
Meeting with the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Human rights, religion and citizens’ complaints Mr. Georg Georgiev
Additionally, the IAO Presidium had a meeting with the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, Religion and Citizens’ Complaints, Mr. Georgi Georgiev, with whom they discussed extensive issues on religious freedom.
The meeting was also attended by the members of the National Assembly of Bulgaria to the IAO Mr. Radonir Cholakov, Mr. Christo Daskalov, and Mr. Krasimir Sabev, Member of the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, Religion and Citizens’ Complaints.
The IAO Secretary General, during the meeting, had the opportunity to inform Mr. Georgiev about the IAO’s campaign on Hagia Sophia’s conversion into a mosque, but also in general about the protection of Christian monuments in various regions and the need to support Christians in the Middle East, while he pointed out that “the IAO promotes interfaith and intercultural dialogue, with the aim of peaceful coexistence of people of different faiths. We pursue to engage with representatives of the Muslim world, such as the Muslim World League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. We need to find channels of communication and understanding, and we are pursuing this with the other Abrahamic religions, Muslim and Jewish religions. The foundation of all these three religions is the Holy Land., where, unfortunately, once more are at the center of political conflicts. After the terrorist attack by the Hamas terrorist organization and the massacre of innocent citizens of Israel, we have an escalation of military conflicts, which we hope will end the soonest possible.”
Meeting with the members of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria
The IAO Secretary General had the opportunity to meet with the members of the Holy Synod of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria. He presented to the Members of the Holy Synod the role and activities of the Organization. The meeting was attended by the Metropolitans Grigory of Veliko Tarnovo, Gavriil of Lovech, Nikolai of Plovdiv, Grigorii of Vratsa, Antonius of Western and Central Europe, John of Varna, Serafim of Nevrokop, Naum of Ruse.
International Conference of the Faculty of Theology at Sofia University “St. Clement of Ohrid” with subject: ‘Theology – Church – Society in Dialogue”
The Secretary General Dr. Maximos Charakopoulos, the President of the IAO General Assembly Mr. Eugeniusz Czykwin, the head of the Bulgarian delegation to the IAO Mr. Radomir Cholakov, and the IAO Advisor Dr. Kostas Mygdalis, participated in the International Conference of the Faculty of Theology at Sofia University “St. Clement of Ohrid” with subject: “Theology – Church – Society in Dialogue”.
The IAO Secretary General, in his greeting address at the ceremony for the 100 years of the Sofia Theological School noted, inter-alia that: “it is a great pleasure for us to participate in the jubilee of an educational institution that in its one century of operation has kept the flame of theological studies, the values of Christianity and Orthodoxy. An institution that essentially supported the Church of Bulgaria, training its administrators, clergy and high priests.”
Additionally, he mentioned, “Orthodoxy became an element of identity, of course particular to each people, but at the same time universal. The element that constituted it belonged to a wider culture, the one bequeathed by the Eastern Roman Empire. And this was also the critical element that saved the distinctiveness, and ultimately the freedom, of the Orthodox peoples during the period of the Turkish rule”. In his greeting, he concluded by saying that “the strengthening of authentic Christian values leads to cooperation, to cohesion, to the strengthening of Europe itself. And this is an existential demand of the times, taking into account the critical changes taking place in the world and the serious challenges we are called to respond to, such as, among others, the gory conflicts of war in Ukraine or the Middle East. As the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew emphasized, “Christian values have no expiration date. The Orthodox Church is par excellence the social and communal form of Christianity”.