Who Do the Archons of the Patriarchate of Constantinople Serve?


What role do influential Greek clans play in strengthening the power of the Phanar and what do they have to do with Ukraine?

With the fall of Constantinople under the attack of the Ottoman Turks in 1453, significant changes occurred in the position of the Patriarchate of Constantinople: on the one hand, he went from being amongst the ruling elite to becoming only tolerated in the now Muslim country, but on the other hand, he was given administrative power over the Greek population (the Rum millet) in the Ottoman Empire— something rather unprecedented for the Patriarchate.

Rich laymen, who are [now] called Archons of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, began to exert great influence on the politics of Phanar. What is this organization doing today, who plays the leading roles in it, and what are its tasks?

The “Son of the Devil” and others

The conquest of Constantinople by the Turks made significant changes in the life of the Greek population. But not all of them were negative. Famous English historian Steven Runciman wrote:

“The Sultan also well understood that the Greeks could be of use to his empire. The Turks will provide it with rulers and warriors; but they lacked skills in trade and industry; few were good sailors; and even in the village, they were more pastoralists than farmers. Cooperation with the Greeks was essential for the economy of the empire. <...> One of the most unpredictable consequences of the Ottoman conquest was the revival of Greek trading life. <...> Few of the Turks had a penchant or taste for trade, and trade in the vast and growing possessions of the Sultan passed into the hands of subjugated peoples: Jews, Armenians, and above all Greeks. The Greek commercial genius has always flourished in areas where the Greeks have been stripped of political power, and thus their ambition and energy are channeled to commerce.”1

The Turks and Greeks created a very effective symbiosis: the Turks provided military and political cover, various preferences, and the Greeks made big money in these favorable conditions. Soon, very rich Greek dynasties were formed, in which from father to son passed not only capital, but also useful connections, as well as experience and knowledge in conducting commercial operations.

Representatives of such famous Greek dynasties as the Laskaris, Doukas, Argyros, Ypsilantis, Kantakouzenos, and others have played a very important role in history. Their riches are legendary. For example, in the sixteenth century, Michael Kantakouzenos was one of the richest people in the whole Near East. One of the descendants of the dynasty, Mikhail Kantakuzin-Speransky, in his book The Saga of Kantakuzin-Speransky gave him an interesting characteristic: “A trader of salt and Russian fur, a greedy extortionist in everything concerning his money (especially when he traded with the Turks for the removal of the patriarch Mitrophan), a cruel lender—he was called Şeytanoğlu—the Son of the Devil.”

Naturally, such rich Greeks, on the one hand, provided significant financial assistance to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, and on the other, acquired so much power in the Patriarchate that they could place Patriarchs on the throne, and remove them from it. For example, the very same Michael Kantakouzenos deposed Joasaph II, one of the most prominent Patriarchs of the Ottoman period, for not blessing him for a marriage that he coveted but that was contrary to church canons.

Over time, these rich Greek families began to build their homes near the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the Phanar region, and became known as Archons. This word itself is rather ambiguous. In ancient Greek city-states, the highest officials were called Archons. In the Byzantine Empire, it was a title for rulers, who nevertheless recognized the power of the Emperor. But in some places of the Gospel in the Greek original, the devil is called an Archon (άρχων) [translated as Prince in the KJV.—Trans.], (“άρχων του κόσμου τούτου”—the prince of this world”)2. And in Gnosticism, Archons were evil spirits.

A significant increase in the influence of the Archons on the affairs of the Patriarchate was facilitated by the fact that the Turkish authorities gave their permission for clergy to take higher church positions through the corrupt Berât system,3 from which the Turks made a lot of money. As Runciman writes, “by the end of the seventeenth century, the usual amount paid by the Patriarch upon his installment was around of 20,000 piastres—approximately 3,000 pounds of gold.”4

This money had to be taken from somewhere. And here the Archons with their capital came to the rescue. What this led to was eloquently described by one of the modern bishops of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Metropolitan Kallistos (Ware), in his book The Orthodox Church:

“The Church’s higher administration became caught up in a degrading system of corruption and simony. Involved as they were in worldly affairs and matters political, the bishops fell a prey to ambition and financial greed. Each new Patriarch required a berat from the Sultan before he could assume office, and for this document he was obliged to pay heavily. The Patriarch recovered his expenses from the episcopate, by exacting a fee from each bishop before instituting him in his diocese; the bishops in turn taxed the parish clergy, and the clergy taxed their flocks. What was once said of the Papacy was certainly true of the Ecumenical Patriarchate under the Turks: everything was for sale.

When there were several candidates for the Patriarchal throne, the Turks virtually sold it to the highest bidder; and they were quick to see that it was in their financial interests to change the Patriarch as frequently as possible, so as to multiply occasions for selling the berat. Patriarchs were removed and reinstated with kaleidoscopic rapidity. ‘Out of 159 Patriarchs who have held office between the fifteenth and the twentieth century, the Turks have on 105 occasions driven Patriarchs from their throne; there have been twenty-seven abdications, often involuntary; six Patriarchs have suffered violent deaths by hanging, poisoning, or drowning; and only twenty-one have died natural deaths while in office.’5

The same man sometimes held office on four or five different occasions, and there were usually several ex-Patriarchs watching restively in exile for a chance to return to the throne. The extreme insecurity of the Patriarch naturally gave rise to continual intrigues among the Metropolitans of the Holy Synod who hoped to succeed him, and the leaders of the Church were usually separated into bitterly hostile parties. ‘Every good Christian,’ wrote an English resident in the seventeenth-century Levant, ‘ought with sadness to consider, and with compassion to behold this once glorious Church tear and rend out her own bowels, and give them for food vultures and ravens, and to the wild and fierce Creatures of the World.’67

Of course, the role of the Archons was not entirely negative. They allocated money for education, the purchase of books. Likewise, Michael Kantakouzenos gathered one of the richest libraries at that time, almost all of which was purchased by Athonite monasteries after his execution by the Turks.

Archons often paid for the education of Greek youths in European educational institutions, mainly Catholic. Indeed, in order to study there, in many cases it was necessary to convert to Catholicism, at least for the time of study.

And in the nineteenth century, during Greece’s struggle for independence, the Archons with their money and ties with the rulers of different countries, and influence on Greek society, contributed to the fact that Greece was in fact able to free itself from the power of the Turks. A descendant of the Ypsilantis clan, major general of the Russian army and adjutant of Emperor Alexander I, Alexander Konstantinovich Ypsilantis in 1821 led the Liberation War, which led Greece to gain independence.

Loyal Servants of the Phanar

In the 20th century, The Archon Society of the Patriarchate of Constantinople was institutionalized. On March 10, 1966, during the patriarchate Athenagoras I (the one who immediately after ascending to the throne declared that his main task was to promote American interests), the religious order of Archons was established—the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle. Its second name is the “Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate”.

The Order was created at the American Archbishopric of the Patriarchate of Constantinople in the form of a public non-profit organization. And in 1991, the Synod of the Patriarchate of Constantinople established a separate order for Archons living outside of America, the Brotherhood of [Archons of] the Most Holy Lady Pammakaristos”.

The spiritual mentor of the Order of St. Andrew is ex-officio the head of the American Archbishopric. Now, it is Archbishop Elpidophoros (Lambriniadis), the one who formulated the concept of the supremacy of the Patriarch of Constantinople, “First without Equals“.

Directly, the activities of the Order are led by a national commander. Now it’s Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis, MD. The governing bodies are also the Executive Committee and the National Council.

Each year, the Patriarch of Constantinople assigns the title of Archon to about two dozen candidates. The selection criteria, according to the procedure on archons.org,8 are as follows:

  1. Does the candidate have a record of service to his local parish, metropolis, and the national Church?

  2. Is the candidate willing and able to give of his Time, Talent, and Treasure, to the best of his ability, in advocating the cause of religious liberty for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and serve the needs of the Holy Mother Church?

  3. Is he willing and able to speak to local, state, and/or federal officials in support of religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate?

  4. Is the candidate willing and able to visit or participate in pilgrimages to the Ecumenical Patriarchate?

  5. How can the candidate advance the cause of the Ecumenical Patriarchate?

It is easy to see that almost all requirements relate to devotion—not to Orthodoxy in general, but to the Ecumenical (Constantinople) Patriarchate. This list does not even formulate requirements for the moral character of the candidate.

It is not for nothing that the list of criteria indicates the candidate’s willingness to lobby for the Phanar’s interests with the US authorities. In 2006, the Order of the Archons initiated the draft Resolution on Religious Freedom, which was accepted by all US states except four.

From the title of this resolution, we might conclude that it is designed to affirm religious freedom in the states for all religious organizations, or at least Orthodox. But this is not so. The provisions of the Resolution concern only the assertion of the rights of Phanar before the Turkish authorities. In particular, the Turkish administration is required to acknowledge that the Patriarch of Constantinople has a “universal i.e. ecumenical status”, and is not only the head of the local “Fener” Orthodox community.

Epiphany Dumenko and “the First without Equals”

The Order of Archons was directly involved in the project of creating the Orthodox Church of Ukraine (OCU). Back in August 2018, when the Patriarchate of Constantinople did not decide on the creation of a OCU on the basis of two schismatic denominations of Ukraine, the Order of Archons stated that “it urges all Orthodox Christians to remember that the Ecumenical Patriarch has the right to grant a Tomos of autocephaly to the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, if he decides to do so.”

And in 2019, at the annual meeting of the Order in the United States, the head of the OCU, Epiphany Dumenko, was awarded the “Athenagoras Prize in the Field of Human Rights”. According to the description of the award on archons.org, it “is awarded every year at the annual banquet of the order to a person or organization that has consistently exemplified by action, purpose and dedication, concern for the basic rights and religious freedom of all people.”

It is rather cynical to present the prize for “caring for the fundamental rights and freedom of religion of all people” to the head of a religious organization whose followers seize churches of another denomination in Ukraine, beat bishops, priests and parishioners, and commit other atrocities.

At the presentation of the prize, Order Commander Anthony Limberakis noted, “the many years of experience of Metropolitan Epiphany in protecting the Ecumenical Patriarchate.” And the site archons.org reported, “Metropolitan Epiphany was an active supporter of religious freedom and a key advocate for the ecclesiastical and canonical prerogatives of the Ecumenical Patriarchate.”

Another area of activity of the Order of the Archons is the support of ecumenical initiatives to bring the Patriarchate of Constantinople and the Vatican closer together. In 2007, the Order proclaimed Pope Benedict XVI and Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople the “Apostles of the World.”

On January 10, 2020, the Order held a constituent assembly in New York, at which the “St. Andrew Ecumenical Patriarchal Fund” was created. Anthony Limberakis, national commander of the Order of the Archons, became its chairman.

The fund aims to “to assist the Ecumenical Patriarchate in upholding and defending its canonical authority in the United States and elsewhere”, as well as “to defend and preserve the Ecumenical Patriarchate’s leadership role among the various Orthodox jurisdictions and organizations around the world.”9

Patriarch Bartholomew recently stated that the Patriarchate of Constantinople “is served not only by our own spiritual children, but also by others—by all Orthodoxy in the entire Christian world,” probably forgetting the words of Christ: Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. (Matthew 4:10).

However, it must be noted that the concept of the supremacy of the Patriarch of Constantinople as “First without Equals” is not just a general theoretical consideration. This concept is backed by strong financial and organizational support. But the question is: is this concept Orthodox or anti-Orthodox?

Kirill Alexandrov
Translation by Matfey Shaheen

Union of Orthodox Journalists


1 Translated from Ukrainian: https://spzh.news/ua/zashhita-very/68670-komu-sluzhat-arkhonty-konstantinopolyskogo-patriarkhata

2 See John 16:11

3 A Berat is a letter of appointment from the Ottoman Sultan, which approved the powers and right of an individual such as the Patriarch. It is similar to the Yarlik or yarlıq required by Russian Princes under the Tatar Yoke—Trans.

4 Translated from Ukrainian: https://spzh.news/ua/zashhita-very/68670-komu-sluzhat-arkhonty-konstantinopolyskogo-patriarkhata

5 B. J. Kidd, The Churches of Eastern Christendom, London, 1927, p. 304

6 Sir Paul Rycaut, The Present State of the Greek and Armenian Churches, London, 1679, p. 107

7 Ware, Timothy. “The Church under Islam” in The Orthodox Church (England: Penguin Books, 1963), 98-99.

8 https://www.archons.org/candidate-credentials

9 https://www.archons.org/-/establishment-st-andrew-ecumenical-patriarchal-fund

Mary3/29/2020 9:47 pm
Sounds very influenced by Roman Catholicism with all the various orders and their obedience not to Christ,not to the Church, but to the Pope. The faithful rose up against a patriarch who made a deal with Rome, (Michael Paleologus?) When we see something wrong we can speak up about it, but more importantly continue to say our prayers and akathists, and read our psalters and Bibles so God can hear our prayers against this and work through us. We have to be the lights on the hilltops; the ones who humbly show what true Orthodox Christians are. No one can stop us from doing that; not even if the entire church becomes infested with these lost souls. Lord have mercy on us all.
Benjamin3/28/2020 9:22 pm
I have just read the new 'Social Ethos of the Orthodox Church', which can be found here on the GOARCH website -> https://www.goarch.org/social-ethos, and I am deeply disturbed. This document, of course, was put out by the Ecumenical Patriarchate. I wont dive into the whole document, you can read it for yourself, but I will outline some of the more troubling pieces: * First, why release this type of document in the first place? Does the Cosmic Body of Christ not already know Herself and understand Her social ethos? Does a two thousand year old institution not already have an established social ethos? I think that somebody's ego is at work here. While many of the points made in the document are obvious truths that even the most tardy of Christians already understand, the document is full of talking points and ideas that sound like they came directly from a western corporate media outlet. The most disturbing part of this document is that it leaves the door wide open for more modern and liberal interpretations of the Faith in the future. The so called guidelines in the document seem to call the Church to re-evaluate Herself in the light of modernity. *Second, our modern, secular, and thoroughly corrupt 'democracies' are presented as the apotheosis of human political achievement. The Patriarchate claims "it would be irrational and uncharitable of Christians not to feel a genuine gratitude for the special democratic genius of the modern age". The governments of Byzantium are called "transient". Also, Christian nationalism is characterized as evil, and those who are critical of modern democratic pluralism should be 'exposed', 'denounced' and 'expelled' from the Church (that would mean me). Europe, The United States, and Australia are explicitly named and demonized for the rise of populism and nationalism in the face of the accelerated globalism of today...but not a word about Zionism and the ethno-state known as Israel! As I said, it's as if the talking points came directly from a western media outlet. It's as if somebody(I wonder who?) is an asset of the west! *Third, the document affirms the use of contraceptives/birth control. Birth control is an evil that after being unleashed in America, made way for an even greater evil several years later; ABORTION! *Fourth, the document calls for the nations of Europe and the 'west' to relax their immigration laws(even more than they already have) and allow for an "international free flow of labor". The document goes on to say that "inflexible immigration laws and impermeable borders" are the cause of the exploitation of migrant labor and that "It is very much in the interest of unprincipled employers that different national labor markets be as segregated from one another as possible". This is a bold faced lie, and Bartholomew and his people know it! The transnational corporations would love nothing more than to be able draw upon an equalized global labor force who are in a perpetual state of migration. *Fifth, as with any western-centric propaganda, special concern is extended to the Jews who are painted as the poor innocent victims of a reemerging "anti-semitism". And once again, no mention of the war crimes committed in the name of Zionism! No mention of the hostilities the Church has faced in the Levant since the establishment of the Jewish ethno-state. The Jews are even referred to as our "spiritual elders". What a bunch of nonsense! Anybody who has ever honestly and sincerely looked into Judaism, understands that the religion of the Jews is a newer religion than the Church of Christ, and in many ways it was a reaction to the Church. It's also extremely ethno-centric. Just read the Babylonian Talmud and decide for yourself if these are our "spiritual elders". There are many other disturbing statements in this document, but don't take my word for it, I'm just a lay convert, read it for yourself. Please forgive me, a sinner, and pray for the Church.
Panteleímon3/26/2020 11:37 pm
The very sad thing about this article is that, such people exist in every jurisdiction within the Orthodox Church! I am a convert to the Orthodox faith, and in the beginning I was completely oblivious to the existence of such groups and people, but trust me when I say that they exist in every jurisdiction throughout the entire Orthodox world. Every parish you go to will have a committee, and it is usually the case that the key members of the committee are the real shakers and movers of the parish. Most of the time, the priest MUST do as he is told by the committee, which means that the Priest -forgive me for saying- is subordinate to the committee. I have seen counterparts to the "Archons" in the Patriarch of Antioch (especially in the USA), the OCA, Romanian, Serbian and even -although to much less influential degree- in ROCOR! In many cases the counterparts to "Archons" from the other jurisdictions are in "communion" with them, having similar goals, worldviews, lifestyles and they attend the same lodges. I do not believe that any of the counterparts are as powerful and influential in the USA as the "Order of St. Andrew", but they still have tremendous influence in their circles and local churches. I have though long and hard about this problem, and I do not see any solution, but I would love to hear what others think. How can we make certain that these groups do not impact the purity of the Orthodox Church and Her saving Theology? How can we make certain the Church's true guide and protector, the Holy Spirit is not being "grieved" by these powerful players? One last point: although this article was apparently written by a member of the Russian Orthodox Church to expose the order, I have to ask whether such groups, maybe under a different name, exist in Russia? It is very very hard for me to believe that the Russian Orthodox Church is not also under some sort of "political influence".
Maximos3/26/2020 10:24 pm
This article proves a great deal about the resilience, brilliance and innovativeness of the Greeks. When I read this article I experienced awe and sadness at the same time. It seems to me that this particular organization, and the power of these sorts of Greeks has been hijacked by the dark spirits, and dark powers of this world to serve it instead of Christ. I grieve because I cannot help but think of the good these people could do for Christianity and the Church if they were themselves sincere believers and loyal to the Holy Christ. May God forgive them, grant them repentance and open their eyes to the true faith that is hidden in plain sight right before their power hungry eyes!
Here you can leave your comment on the present article, not exceeding 4000 characters. All comments will be read by the editors of OrthoChristian.Com.
Enter through FaceBook
Your name:
Your e-mail:
Enter the digits, seen on picture:

Characters remaining: 4000

to our mailing list

* indicates required