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4th Archon International Conference on Religious Freedom Begins in Athens

With the blessings of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and in consultation with His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, the 4th Archon International Conference on Religious Freedom began on Sunday, May 26, 2024. The conference is being organized and hosted by the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America, Canada, Europe and Australia, and will be followed by the historic First Global Summit of Archons: Protecting the Future of Faith.

The proceedings began in Athens’ inspiring and beautiful Metropolitan Cathedral, the Church of the Annunciation, which is the Cathedral of His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos of Athens and All Greece. Following Orthros, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros celebrated an Archieratical Divine Liturgy​. Following the Divine Liturgy, in keeping with the theme of the conference, a 50-year anniversary Memorial Service commemorating the victims of the tragic invasion of Cyprus and all other martyrs who have lost their lives because of religious persecution. After the Divine Liturgy, Archons venerated the tomb of one of the most notable of the martyrs who lost their lives in religious persecution: the holy hieromartyr Saint Gregory V of Constantinople, who as Ecumenical Patriarch was martyred in Constantinople in 1821.

A Welcome Reception was held that evening at the Foreign Ministry of the Hellenic Republic. Deputy Foreign Minister Giorgos Kotsiras welcomed the conference participants and emphasized that religious freedom does not exist without respect for human rights and the equality of all people before the law. Minister Kotsiras reiterated the Greek government’s determination to preserve the Christian Faith and promote the teachings of the Orthodox tradition, and stated that his government had begun work on a three-year strategic plan to promote these principles. He also stressed the full support of the Foreign Ministry for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Minister Kotsiras observed that the presence of so many notable and accomplished people at a conference on religious freedom indicated the gravity and seriousness of the issue of preserving and protecting this fundamental aspect of any free society.

Athanasios Martinos, Archon Exarchos, President of the Pammakaristos Brotherhood of Archons in Europe and Conference Co-Chair, then welcomed the conference participants also, and emphasized the cardinal importance of working for the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of all those who are deprived of this freedom worldwide.

Conference Co-Chair, Anthony J. Limberakis, MD, Archon Megas Aktouarios, National Commander of the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America, thanked Archon Martinos and noted what an immense privilege it was to work with him on the planning of the Conference and Global Summit. Dr. Limberakis stated that he was confident that the Conference would result in meaningful and consistent global action to protect religious freedom, and discussed the three previous Archon conferences on religious freedom, in Brussels, Berlin, and Washington, D.C.

Regarding the Global Summit of Archons, Dr. Limberakis observed that “this new era of collaboration and cooperation comes at the behest of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and fully supported by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros who suggested in March 2023 that just such an international meeting of Archons take place. It is with great joy that I can on this day declare that the call of His All-Holiness has been heard, and that his hope has, by the grace of Almighty God, come to fruition.”

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros offered remarks, and noted that there was no more appropriate setting for the reception than the Foreign Ministry, as this was the occasion of an unprecedented gathering of Archons from around the world. His Eminence drew a parallel between the Philike Hetairia, a group of Greek patriots who organized throughout the Diaspora to aid the fight for Greek independence in 1821, and the Archons of today. The Archons are fighting today, he said, but with the weapons of peace, and with diplomatic skill are leading the way to secure the rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

His Eminence also stated that today the Church faces a choice over what kind of Church we will leave for our children and grandchildren. His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, said His Eminence, leads the way to peace, freedom of choice and self-determination. The other choice, His Eminence added, is for spiritual and moral self-destruction. The unity, solidarity and energy of the Archons, His Eminence noted, are vital at this inflection point.

His All-Holiness, said His Eminence, has lighted the way for us with his message of faith, hope, and love. He called upon all those present to carry that message to the ends of the earth, and to make the time of this Conference a precious offering to the holy Mother Church; he reminded those present that it was through His precious and life-giving Cross that the Lord brought joy to the world.

Archons Martinos and Limberakis together with Archbishop Elpidophoros then presented an inscribed crystal obelisk to Minister Kotsiros, expressing their gratitude to him and Foreign Minister Giorgos Gerapetritis.

The Conference sessions begin Monday morning with the Official Opening at the Stoa of Attalos. His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will address the participants on video. Other speakers will include Athens Mayor Haris Doukas, His Beatitude Archbishop Ieronymos, and John Chrysoulakis, Secretary General for Greeks Abroad and Public Diplomacy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

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