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Orthodox Christian leader laments Holocaust

The spiritual leader of Orthodox Christianity lamented the "dreadful indifference" by members of his faith in the Holocaust and praised Israel as a place of refuge for Jewish people.

In a speech Monday at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew said, while some stood up to the Nazis during World War II, many others failed to act."The bitter truth for so many Christians of that terrible time was that they could not connect the message of their faith to their actions in the world. They were unable to manifest their faith from their deeds," he told an audience of Orthodox Christian and Jewish leaders.

Bartholomew, who has experienced conservative Muslim harassment at home in Istanbul, the latter-day Constantinople, said he respects "the role of Israel as a guarantor of the Jewish people's existence."

Arriving Sunday for his first U.S. visit, the white-bearded patriarch held up America's commitment to freedom of religion as an example for all nations.

"Our modesty is filled with admiration for this nation's commitment to freedom, consecration to justice and dedication to opportunity for all," said Bartholomew, who has kept alive the historic Constantinople patriarchate despite pressure from Muslim conservatives in modern-day Istanbul.

Later this week, Bartholomew, 57, will meet with President Clinton and receive a Congressional Gold Medal. In Santa Barbara, Calif., he will participate in a major conference on the environment - one of his signature issues. Throughout the country, he is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese in the United States.