As we observe the Feast Day of our Patronal Saint Andrew, we should reflect on the extraordinary personages that established our Holy Orthodox Faith and the sacred space where it all began.
On Wednesday, November 29, 2023, His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew presided over the Great Vespers at the Venerable Patriarchal Church of Saint George in the Phanar, to commemorate the November 30 Feast Day of Andrew the First-Called, the patron saint of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
As in other years, the distinguished gathering included an Official Delegation of the Church of Rome, under the leadership of Cardinal Kurt Koch, President of the Pontifical Council for the Promotion of Christian Unity. During his homily, His All-Holiness stated: “We extend a gracious welcome to the esteemed delegation from the sister Church of Rome, led by Cardinal Kurt Koch. The presence of such Delegations during the Thronal Feast symbolizes and embodies the spirit of ecumenism that has prevailed in our relations since the 1960s, marking a significant chapter in our journey towards unity in the Divine Eucharist. Our steps toward this blessed goal remain steadfast, driven by a mutual trust and an unwavering determination to fulfill our divine calling.”
The presence of the delegation from the Church of Rome was fitting, as the Holy Mother Church of Constantinople was one of the original five apostolic sees (Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem). It was founded by Saint Andrew, the πρωτόκλητος or “first-called” of the Apostles of Jesus Christ. Saint Andrew was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and was the brother of Peter, the chief of the Apostles who founded the Church in Rome. While Peter symbolically came to represent the Church of the West, Andrew likewise represents the Church of the East.
His All-Holiness also said: “We are confident that the convergence of our Churches contributes to the dialogue and peace at large. Christianity and the religious traditions hold principles not only for nurturing inner spiritual peace but also for striving to establish peace in human relationships and society. It is contrary to the essence and mission of a representative of the Church or religion to promote violence in the name of God.”
After the conclusion of the Vespers of the Feast, His All-Holiness invested Dr. Leonidas Tzonis as an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and conferred upon him the offikion Ostiarios. In his address to the newly invested Archon, the Ecumenical Patriarch remarked: “You, Your Eminence, are now part of the contemporary Archons Offikialioi of the Great Church, entrusted with upholding the noble tradition of service and dedication. Your association with the Ecumenical Throne is a special honor, calling upon you to contribute your talents in your professional domains.”
His All-Holiness added: “With a background in Economics and a distinguished career in business administration and academia, recommended by Metropolitan Theodoritos of Laodicea for your societal contributions, administrative prowess, and commitment to the Mother Church, you join our esteemed Archons. We embrace the Archons as partners in the Church’s worldly mission, anticipating your ongoing and expanded contributions.” Dr. Tzonis has been providing invaluable assistance to the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in planning our Fourth Archon International Conference, Protecting Religious Freedom, Democracy and Human Rights, which is scheduled for May 26-28, 2024 in Athens, Greece; and the first Global Summit of Archons, which will be held on May 29, 2024, also in Athens.
The Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate are selected by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew for their outstanding service to the Church, and are significant, distinguished, and well-respected leaders of the Orthodox Christian community. Their special concern and interest is to serve as a bulwark to protect and promote the Sacred See of Saint Andrew the Apostle and its worldwide salvific mission.
As first of the Apostles to be called, O Andrew, brother of him (Peter) who was foremost, beseech the Master of all to grant the world peace and our souls great mercy.