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4th Archon International Conference on Religious Freedom Concludes with Triumphant Farewell Dinner

The 4th Archon International Conference on Religious Freedom and 1st Global Summit of Archons in Athens, Greece concluded with a Farewell Dinner on Wednesday evening, May 29, 2024. Speakers noted how much was accomplished during the busy and eventful Conference, expressed gratitude to those who worked so hard to bring it to fruition, and stated their confidence that this Conference would be the beginning of numerous important endeavors for the promotion of religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and all the peoples of the world.

After His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel, Geron of Chalcedon, offered the invocation, the Master of Ceremonies, Hon. B. Theodore Bozonelis, National Vice Commander of the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America, provided a summary of the highlights of the Conference, which took place at several notable venues around Athens, including the Stoa of Attalos, the Old Parliament House, the Zappeion, and the American School of Classical Studies. Judge Bozonelis referred to the request to His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to consider the formation of a global Archon organization as one of the most notable events of the Conference.

Conference co-chair Archon Athanasios Martinos, President of the Pammakaristos Brotherhood in Europe, welcomed the Conference participants and thanked his fellow co-chair, Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis, National Commander of the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America, for his tireless efforts on behalf of the holy Mother Church of Constantinople.

Archon Boris Gurov offered greetings, saying that his home town was Sofia, Bulgaria, and that sophia means wisdom. Archon Gurov stressed the importance of being guided by the wisdom of the Church, and to protect the faith for future generations so that this wisdom would be preserved and handed down. He said that the Archons enrich our Orthodox Christian presence around the world, and that the unity of the Orthodox world was the best guarantee of a unified front to fight for religious freedom and justice.

Archon Peter Skeadas, National Treasurer of the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America, offered the Toast and noted what a privilege it was to be in Athens for the past several days, and in the Zappeion that evening. The Zappeion was built for the revival of the Olympic Games in modern times, and is one of Athens’ most notable landmarks.

Archon Judge Bozonelis then introduced Conference Co-Chair, Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis, National Commander, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America, for his Remarks and referred to him as a visionary leader and praising him for moving the Archons from an honorary title to an organization that actively supports and promotes the preservation of the Ecumenical Patriarchate by means of numerous global initiatives.

Dr. Limberakis stated that being an Archon is a ministry. Protecting religious freedom, democracy and human rights are momentous responsibilities, and the next steps we take, he said, are manifold and will require us to work together. This was why a worldwide global order of Archons was needed.

Evangelos Venizelos, Former Deputy Prime Minister of Greece and Professor of Constitutional Law at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, then offered the keynote address. He reiterated that to be an Archon is a great responsibility: “You, honorable Archons,” he said, “understand better than anyone that the office and title of archon represent a Cross of responsibility, a confession of faith, a devotion, a call to vigilance.” Noting that the preservation of unity is the fundamental condition for the ability of the diaspora to intervene effectively in the interests of Hellenism, he added: “We watch you with admiration and pride for the position you have achieved in the society and economy of your countries and express our gratitude for your readiness, initiatives and actions.”

Minister Venizelos also noted that the Farewell Dinner was taking place on May 29, the tragic anniversary of the fall of Constantinople in 1453. He called upon the West to “acknowledge Byzantium’s contributions to the formation of the modern state and the promotion of enlightenment and modernity,” and stated: “The Ecumenical Patriarchate is not only the mother church, the first throne of the Orthodox church that carries the ministry of primacy. It is also the ark of this historical legacy of Byzantium and the Eastern Roman Empire that lies at the foundations of Western civilization.”

Continuing with an inspiring call to defend democracy, human rights, and the rule of law, Minister Venizelos firmly situated these values in the Hellenic and Greek Orthodox tradition: “Ex oriente lux. From the East comes the light. Even through its fall, the Eastern Roman Empire has co-shapes the values and historical background of the West which must now be relighted. Because this is the critical moment for the defense of democracy, the rule of law, and human rights that constitute Western legal and political civilization. The war in Ukraine and the crisis in the Middle East following the tragic events of October 7th have confronted us with the obligation to defend this tripartite foundation upon which the West is built as a strategic entity with Euro-American cooperation as its core.”

His Eminence Metropolitan Emmanuel stated in His Response  that Evangelos Venizelos is not just an academic, but had been in politics for many years. His Eminence thanked Venizelos for bringing into sharp focus the key challenges that the Archons and all Orthodox Christians face in defending the Ecumenical Patriarchate and religious freedom. By operating together, both clergy and laity, His Eminence said, we can bear more fruit.

At the end of the evening, a special presentation was made. Dr. Limberakis and Judge Bozonelis called all the U.S. Archon officers and their wives to the stage, along with Archon Athanasios and Marina Martinos and Archons from other countries. They then presented a bouquet of flowers and a set of earrings to Presbytera Xanthi Karloutsos for her tireless and selfless work on this conference, and a special gravity pen to Rev. Protopresbyter Alex Karloutsos, spiritual adviser of the Archons, for all his labors for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the entire Church.

His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America offered the Benediction.

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