The 4th International Conference on Religious Freedom, organized by the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, commenced in Athens on Sunday on the theme of “Protecting Religious Freedom, Democracy & Human Rights.”

According to the organizers, the conference will be succeeded by the inaugural Global Summit of Archons on Wednesday, also in the Greek capital.

“Archons”, the Greek word for “high officials” or “lords”, are major benefactors and advocates of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the primus inter pares of the world’s Christian Orthodox Patriarchates and autocephalous Churches. Archons from around the world have arrived in Athens for the conference.

The Archbishop of Athens and All Greece, His Beatitude Ieronymos, on Monday delivered the opening greeting at the 4th Archon three-day event, which is held under the blessing of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I.

In a video greeting, Bartholomew said Orthodoxy is called upon today to work as a positive challenge in the modern world and to place at the top of its priorities the sacredness of the human being and the integrity of creation.

Additionally, Archbishop of America, His Eminence Elpidophoros, arrived in Greece over the past few days in order to attend and address the conference.

Additional keynote speakers include Despina Chatzivassiliou-Tsovilis, the secretary general of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Vilnius, Gintaras Grušas, who is also the president of the Council of European Bishops’ Conferences (CCEE), and former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Among the most pressing issues up for discussion at the conference are the challenges and threats faced by the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which is located in the Fanar district of Istanbul, an increase in authoritarianism and its repercussions on religious communities, as well as the role of religion on geo-politics.

The previous three religious freedom conferences were hosted at the European Parliament in Brussels, in Berlin and Washington, D.C.