25 October 2005, 13:38
Gorbachev becomes Archon of the Patriarchate of Constantinople
New York, October 25, Interfax - Next day after winning the ‘Grammy’ award, former USSR President Mikhail Gorbachev received the Athenagoras Human Rights Award in New York and was honored with the title of Archon and the Grand Orator (Megas Rhetor) of the Patriarchate of Constantinople.
Archbishop Dimitrios of America, representative of Patriarch Bartholomew I in the USA, conducted investiture (office of elevating to Archons) on the Patriarch’s behalf.
According to Anthony Limberakis, National Commander of the Order of St.Andrew the Apostle, the ex-president was given the honorary title as ‘a baptized Russian Orthodox Christian’ who played a key role in ‘adopting the law that guaranteed religious freedom in the former USSR’.
US President Bush’s internal security advisor Francis Townsand delivered a key speech, and former CIA director George Tenet served as toastmaster.
He played this role because of his professional experience in the field of religious freedom. Ex-head of the Central Intelligence was granted the title of Archon only the next day on Sunday together with 40 newly-elected members of the Order of St.Andrew the Apostle. Among them was Administrator Andrew S. Natsios of the US Agency for International Development.
He was invested at the Greek Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (Gorbachev was invested in the ‘Hilton’ hotel without going to the church).
Higher officials were called archons in ancient Greek cities. The top grandees had this title in the Byzantine Empire. After the fall of Byzantium the title was sometimes bestowed by the Patriarch of Constantinople who led the life of the Greek community during the Turkish dominion not only in ecclesiastical, but also in civil aspects.
Forty years ago Archbishop Jacob of America introduced the office of archons to award the Greek laymen who distinguished themselves by their services to the Patriarchate of Constantinople of both material and public nature. Archons are united in the Order of St.Andrew the Apostle. In essence, the title of archon speaks of belonging to church nobility and is bestowed by the Patriarch.
Megas rhetor (the grand orator) is second to megas logothetis (the grand deputy). This office in the Byzantine Empire can be compared to that of prime minister of today. According to official site of the Order of St.Andrew the Apostle, the office of grand orator ‘had the responsibility of Christian education, and was bestowed upon those possessing a thorough theological background and a high degree of rhetorical skill’.
Each archon has to make a sworn oath at his investiture ‘to defend and promote the Greek Orthodox faith and tradition’ and, in particular, ‘to protect and promote the Holy Patriarchate and its mission’. The statute says that this honour is bestowed upon individuals of ‘proven Christian character’, who ‘conform faithfully to the teachings of Christ, and the doctrines, canons, worship, discipline, and encyclicals of the Church’.