The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle is once again making presentations at the annual Human Dimension meetings of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), as it has done since 2006. Each year, the Order sends a delegation to the OSCE; this year, the delegation was represented by Archon Franklin (Rocky) Sisson, Jr., Archon Prepositos, and Archon Hon. Steven G. Counelis, Archon Nomophylax.
On September 28, 2022, on behalf of the Order of St. Andrew, Archon Sisson made an oral presentation on the status of the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the 2022 Human Dimension Implementation Meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Warsaw, Poland. Archon Hon. Cornelis is scheduled to make his presentation tomorrow.
Archon Sisson made his presentation during the second Plenary Session of the Meeting, which dealt with Fundamental Freedoms. “The Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle,” Archon Sisson stated, “once again reports that the Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarchate in Turkey is denied basic religious freedom.”
The Ecumenical Patriarchate, Archon Sisson noted, “for many years has faced a hostile environment which at times has threatened its very existence. This is why in 2022, Turkey continues to be on the ‘special watch list’ of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom as it has been since 2013. According to the 2022 Report, ‘the state of religious freedom in Turkey remained deeply troubling, with the perpetuation of restrictive and intrusive governmental policies on religious practice and a marked increase in incidents of vandalism and societal violence against religious minorities.’”
Archon Sisson also detailed the core issues of concern that the Order of St Andrew has identified and continues to focus on in its defense of the Ecumenical Patriarch. These include the continued closure of the Halki School of Theology, the Turkish government’s denial of legal standing to the Ecumenical Patriarchate; the Turkish government’s seizure of thousands of properties belonging to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and conversion of historic churches, including Hagia Sophia, into mosques; and more.
On behalf of the Order, Archon Sisson called for an end to these practices. He also stated that “our commitment to religious freedom necessitates that we also speak against those Orthodox Christians who, with state support, undermine the religious rights of others. This is precisely what is happening in Ukraine and Africa where leaders of the Moscow Patriarchate are actively undermining the religious self-determination of millions of Christians who do not wish to be subjected to a church that has been subordinated to the Russian government.”
With 57 participating States in North America, Europe and Asia, the OSCE is the world’s largest regional security organization. The OSCE works for stability, peace and democracy for the entire world, through political dialogue about shared values, as well as through practical work intended to make a lasting difference.
Ad Notem: Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate – Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate
The Order of St. Andrew of the Ecumenical Patriarchate was organized on the Sunday of Orthodoxy, March 10, 1966 when His Eminence Archbishop Iakovos conferred upon thirty outstanding laymen of the Church the various Offikion or Offices of the Ecumenical Patriarchate on behalf of His All Holiness Patriarch Athenagoras of blessed memory. They were honored because of their love, loyalty and support of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and their contribution to its advancement and welfare.
The Offikia for the Order of St. Andrew derive from some of the most prestigious offices of the ancient world. Originating in the Ancient Greek City-States, these civic offices were transformed when the Roman Empire embraced the Christian faith during the fourth century. As a consequence of this transition, not only were the office holders important leaders of the Christian community, the offices themselves took on specific religious responsibilities for the service and promotion of the faith in the Roman Empire. The ancient order of Archons is, in fact, the oldest and most prestigious honor that can be bestowed upon a layman in the entire Christian world.
The Order of St. Andrew meets annually and celebrates on November 30, which is the feast day of Saint Andrew the Apostle who is the Patron Saint and namesake of the Organization. The fundamental goal of the Order of St. Andrew is directed at an ongoing concern for religious freedom and the defense and advancement of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
The provisions of the Treaty of Lausanne (1923) concerning the protection of ancient foundations providing public services for religious minorities state as follows:
Turkey undertakes that the stipulations contained in articles 38 to 44 are recognized as fundamental laws, so that no law, regulation or official action shall contradict or conflict with such stipulations and that no law, regulation or official action shall prevail against them.
Article 42 § 3
The Turkish government undertakes to grant full protection to churches, synagogues, cemetries and other minority religious establishments referred to above. Full facilities and authorisation shall be granted to religious foundations and religious and charitable establishments for the same minorities currently existing in Turkey ….
The citing of these provisions clearly establishes that the Ecumenical Patriarchate falls under the protection of the Treaty of Lausanne.
Hagia Sofia in Istanbul is known throughout the world as The Great Church of Christ. It is presently a neutral museum, but Turkish authorities hoping to convert into mosque. In fact, a Call to Prayer was conducted for the first time in 85 Years on July 1, 2016. Also, a permanent Imam was assigned to Hagia Sophia. This is a violation of the monument’s formal neutral status. Archon Leadership met in Washington on Tuesday, July 12, 2016 protesting this development and sought official criticism by U.S. Government.
Iznik (ancient Nicaea)
This ancient church is where the First Ecumenical Council was held in the year 325. The Christian Creed was established here. It was converted into a mosque, July 2012.
Hagia Sofia in Trabzon
Built in 1238, it is among the finest examples of Byzantine architecture. However, the Diayanet filed lawsuit against the ministry of culture. This Church was converted into a mosque, July 5, 2013, oddly enough on the 1st Friday prayers of Ramadan.