At the Metropolis of San Francisco Young Adult League (YAL) Conference in San Diego, California on September 3, 2022, Archon Regional Commanders Hon. Steven G. Counelis and Dr. Gregory G. Papadeas introduced the 585 attendees to the threats to international religious freedom, and to the major issues confronting the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Addressing the young adults in attendance, Archon Counelis said: “We are speaking with you because all of you are emerging leaders of our Greek Orthodox Church in America. Our brief message to you as emerging leaders is to tell you very bluntly that your Church is under attack, and your religious freedom is being violated as we speak, by the Government of Turkey. That government’s continuous threats and actions against our Church, our Faith, and specifically The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, have not stopped for decades.”
Archon Counelis discussed the July 2020 reconversion of Hagia Sophia to a mosque, stating: “The Turkish government’s decision was a deeply aggressive act of memoricide and cultural appropriation that ignores Turkey’s rich Christian history, and further threatens the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the remaining Christians of that land.”
Archon Papadeas clearly delineated and explained the five major issues that are currently hindering our Mother Church from acting with full freedom:
“First - The Turkish government imposes restrictions on the election of the Ecumenical Patriarch and Hierarchs who vote for him, by requiring that they must be Turkish citizens."
“Second - The Ecumenical Patriarchate has no legal identity or bona fide legal personality in Turkey."
“Third - The Turkish Government has confiscated thousands of properties from the Ecumenical Patriarchate."
“Fourth - The Turkish government does not recognize the ‘Ecumenical’ status of the Ecumenical Patriarch and Ecumenical Patriarchate."
“Fifth – For 50 years the Ecumenical Patriarchate has not trained new clergy in Turkey because its theological school was forcibly closed down by the Turkish Government.”
Archons Counelis and Papadeas challenged the young adults by stating: “You might be asking “What can I do? The answer is to learn the issues regarding the survival of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and then help educate others regarding our ‘Church in Captivity.’”
His Eminence Metropolitan Gerasimos of San Francisco offered his own emphatic words of support, and exhorted the young adults to learn more about their Mother Church and how to support her.
Each conference registrant was provided a copy of the Archon Newsletter, and laminated cards depicting Saint Andrew, the Ecumenical Patriarch, or Hagia Sophia were distributed to all as they entered the Divine Liturgy.
Archon Counelis serves as Vice-Chair of the “Youth Participation Activities” Engagement Committee. Archon Papadeas serves on the same Committee, and is Regional Commander of the Metropolis of Denver. Archon Counelis, Regional Commander of the Metropolis of San Francisco, and his wife Stacia have served as the Conference Advisers to the YAL Conference Ministry of the Metropolis of San Francisco since its renaissance in 2018.