The Annual Archon Weekend and Annual Meeting of the Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, was held this year on Saturday, December 12 as a virtual Zoom one-day event for the first time ever, due to the ongoing Covid threat. The event won enthusiastic praise from attendees for its careful organization and flawless execution.
The morning session focused upon Archons-elect and their spouses and families. After the invocation by Protopresbyter Father Alexander Karloutsos, Spiritual Advisor of the Archons and Vicar General of the Archdiocese of America, Archon National Commander Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis offered an orientation presentation, emphasizing that the duty and responsibility of the Order is solely to “support and defend the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”
Dr. Limberakis introduced the National Council officers and members and presented a multimedia program detailing the enormous international scope of Archon activity and the Order’s successes in defending the rights and prerogatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the religious liberty of Christians everywhere. He noted that “two-thirds of the catastrophe in the Middle East has fallen on Orthodox Christians” and explained how the Archons have brought their message on Christian persecution and religious liberty to some of the most powerful and influential political figures in the United States and around the world.
Archon Boot Camp then began with a presentation by Archon John S. Zavitsanos, Esq., Boot Camp Committee Chair, who emphasized to the Archons-Elect that being invited to become an Archon was not an honor given in view of past achievements, but a charge and responsibility bestowed upon each new Archon to give his time, talent, and treasure for the protection and support of the Mother Church. National Council Member Archon Rocky Sisson then detailed some of the particular areas to which Archons-Elect could devote their efforts, and Regional Commanders and National Council Members Archons John Manos and Gus Pablecas gave an engaging presentation on how they publicize Archon efforts to support and defend the Ecumenical Patriarchate in numerous inventive and highly effective ways. Archon Zavitsanos expanded upon this with enlightening information about the activities of the Turkish lobby in the United States, its impact on the status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and how the Archons could counter it.
After a brief break, the Order of Saint Andrew Annual Meeting began (after another invocation from Fr. Alexander Karloutsos) with His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, offering his Archiepiscopal Charge to the new Archons. His Eminence praised “this unique brotherhood of the Mother Church of Constantinople” in a videotaped statement; he was unable to attend the Zoom meeting live, as he was in Maryland officiating at the burial of the beloved Archon and former U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes of blessed memory.
Then followed a videotaped Patriarchal Exhortation from His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, who lauded the Order’s “many achievements throughout the years” and reminded the Archons that “it is our responsibility as Christians to come together...to help those who have been impacted by this pandemic.”
Dr. Limberakis thereafter once again welcomed the Archons, after which Archon Constantine G. Caras, Esq. presented the Archon Class of 2020. The new Archons introduced themselves and their families in a series of six video biographies that were interspersed throughout the rest of the meeting, in a much-applauded initiative of Archon-elect Theodore Vagelos.
Archon Hon. B. Theodore Bozonelis, National Secretary, presented the 2019 Minutes, which were approved, after which Archon Peter J. Skeadas, National Treasurer, gave the Treasurer’s Report, which was likewise approved. In addition, Archon Peter Kakoyiannis, Esq., offered the Audit Committee Report, and an Audited Financial Report for 2019 was presented by a representative of the independent audit firm BDO USA, LLP, and approved as well.
Archon Michael G. Psaros, Chair of the 2020 Archon Weekend, Virtual Zoom Meeting Committee, presented remarks about the necessity of holding Archon Weekend in 2020 as a virtual event, and the planning and logistics involved, and noted that $480,000 had been raised for Archon initiatives. Co-Chairs Archons Alexander Pritsos offered additional insights into what was involved in making the event run smoothly.
Dr. Limberakis then discussed a new Archon initiative, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation for the Sacred See of St. Andrew, of which he was elected Chair. This is an initiative designed to provide financial independence for the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Dr. Limberakis noted that the bylaws for this Foundation have been approved by His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, and that it will operate as an independent, separate entity established as a non-profit religious corporation under the laws of the State of New York to financially assist the worldwide ministry of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
Dr. Limberakis also pointed out that due to the efforts of Archons Thomas Constance, Esq. and Christopher Stratakis, Esq., the Foundation has 501(c)3 charitable status granted from the IRS. It also has its own board of trustees, with both men and women members; Archbishop Elpidophoros of America is the representative of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Dr. Limberakis informed the Archons that the Foundation received over $1 million from the 2018 Athenagoras Human Rights Award honoring Fr. Alexander Karloutsos and Presbytera Xanthi Karloutsos, and will have a starting balance of $1,408,711 on January 1, 2021.
The followed National Council Committee Reports from the Chairs, including Nominating Committee chair Archon John Halecky, Jr., who presented for election the new 8 members slate of National Council Members serving a three year term and Communications Committee chair Archon Rocky Sisson, Esq., who discussed the reformatting and updating of the website Archons.org and its accompanying app, and the new Archon website ChristianPersecution.com, which has been established as a result of imperatives arising out of the 2017 Third Archon International Religious Freedom Conference.
Archon John A. Catsimatidis then took up the theme of the Archons’ religious freedom initiatives, detailing their centrality to the mission of the Order, and Archon Andrew E. Manatos and his son Archon Michael Manatos explained the Order’s efforts at the highest levels of the U.S. government in Washington. The Archons then heard from the Pilgrimage Committee, as Archon Alexander Pritsos, Sergeant at Arms, and Archon Peter J. Skeadas, National Treasurer discussed the Pilgrimage to the Ecumenical Patriarchate led by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America in November 2019, noting that the participants were the last Archon group to tour Hagia Sophia as a museum before it was converted to a mosque. Dr. Limberakis discussed the Archon meetings, led by Father Alexander Karloutsos and Presbytera Xanthi Karloutsos, with His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew in Brussels.
The meeting concluded with a moving Trisagion service for the departed Archons, officiated by His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America.