June 12, 2024

Athens News

News in English from Greece

Archons of Phanar will discuss religious freedom in Athens

Archons of the Patriarchate of Constantinople. Photo: Strategic Culture Foundation

From May 26 to 28, a conference of archons will take place (the honorary title of archon is bestowed by the Patriarch of Constantinople on lay Greeks, well-known and respected leaders of the Orthodox Christian religious community, as a sign of their outstanding services to the Orthodox Church of Constantinople) of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, reports Orthodoxtimes.

The conference will discuss issues of religious freedom. “Archons from America, Greece, Canada, Australia and Europe will come to the conference. Speakers include Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Archbishop Gintaras Grushas and other respected advocates of religious freedom. And on May 29, after the summits, a historical event is planned – the first Global Summit of Archons, dedicated to the creation of a unified network to protect the future of world Christian Orthodoxy.”the message says.

“From Sunday 26 May to Tuesday 28 May 2024, Archons from America, Greece, Canada, Australia and across Europe will gather in Athens for the Fourth International Archon Conference on Religious Liberty: Defending Religious Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights”writes Theodor Bozonelis at orthodoxtimes.

This high-level international conference is the latest of countless initiatives by the Archons to defend the Ecumenical Patriarchate and religious freedom throughout the world. Following the international conference on religious freedom, the first historic summit of all world archons will take place, dedicated to the creation of a unified and organized network to protect the future of world Christian Orthodoxy and all faiths.

This international conference continues the active, multi-faceted projects of the archons to protect religious freedom; it follows three other international conferences on religious freedom that the Archons have held in recent years: at the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, 2010; in Berlin, Germany, 2013; in Washington, DC, 2017.

The conference in Athens will feature the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Archbishop Gintaras Grushas, ​​Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vilnius, Lithuania, and the President of the Council of Conferences of European Bishops (CCEE), Dr. Despina Chatsivassiliou-Tsovilis, Secretary General of the Parliamentary Assemblies of the Council of Europe, other prominent and respected defenders of religious freedom.

Highlights include the hierarchical Divine Liturgy at the Metropolitan Cathedral of the Annunciation, the opening ceremony at the Stoa of Attalos, a reception at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as events at Athens' most famous historical and architectural sites, including the Acropolis Museum, the Old Parliament, the Zappeion Hall and the American School of Classical Studies .

These Athenian sites are particularly suitable for a conference attended by the world's archons. The Ancient Order of Archons is the oldest and most prestigious honor that can be bestowed on a lay person in all of Christendom. The title of Archon dates back to the eleventh century BC and was held by some of the most famous figures in Hellenic history, including Pericles, Solon, Themistocles and Aristides the Just, as well as Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman Emperor.

In the modern era, the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate have sought the assistance of the US federal government, the legislatures of each of the 50 US states, the European Union, the European Court of Human Rights, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and other institutions to convey an urgent message Turkish and other state governments to cease and abandon policies that restrict the religious freedom of not only the Ecumenical Patriarchate, but also all religious minorities, including the Jewish, Roman Catholic and Protestant communities in Turkey and other countries.

These efforts come at a time of global crisis of religious freedom, especially for Christians, but also for people of all faiths. According to Open Doors, World Watch List and Aid to the Church in Need, 360 million Christians are persecuted around the world – a number greater than the current population of the United States.

Christians, and especially Christian women, face extreme or severe persecution in 73 countries. Today, the situation not only has not improved, but has also worsened in many regions. On average, 25 churches and other Christian buildings are attacked every day around the world. In the Middle East, the proportion of Christians in the population is less than five percent, whereas at the turn of the last century it was more than twenty percent. This decline is attributed to a century of relentless persecution that began a century ago with the genocide of the Greeks, Armenians and Assyrians.

In the face of this global crisis, His Holiness, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, our beloved spiritual leader of the world's 300 million Orthodox Christians, has for many years now lent his deep and prophetic voice to the quest to protect and promote religious freedom and human rights for all faiths.

He declared: “A modern and democratic political and social structure must respect the religious wishes and feelings of its citizens. Religious freedoms cannot be curtailed in the name of secularism.”

His Holiness also reminded us that “the Church of Constantinople constantly demonstrates the need to protect and promote religious freedom and the free exercise of worship, upholding the ethic of solidarity with other religious communities.”

Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew does not just talk about religious freedom; he takes drastic action, putting himself at great personal risk, to protect her. In January 2019, after enduring extreme pressure from the Moscow Patriarchate and its proxies, he granted freedom to the Orthodox Church of Ukraine with his Tomos of Autocephaly.

The pressure on him did not ease after the granting of autocephaly and, moreover, intensified as the Moscow Patriarchate intervenes in the canonical lands of the Alexandrian Patriarchate, as well as in other canonical territories of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

However, in the face of these problems, His Holiness cannot enjoy the same religious freedom that he has granted to others. The restrictions that the Turkish government has placed on the Ecumenical Patriarchate are of ongoing concern to the Archons and are a key focus of the Archons' efforts to protect religious freedom.

The Archons are committed throughout the world to work with governments and powerful people to restore the religious freedom of our beloved and most holy Mother Church so that she can carry out her worldwide sacred mission forever and without any hindrance.

These efforts have now expanded to protect religious freedom for all faiths. We invite all people of good will who stand for human rights and religious freedom to join us in this noble initiative.”

*Gon. B. Theodore Bozonelis, Archon Ekdikos, National Vice-Commander, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America.

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