Hi-tech of future union: one under-the-radar meeting of the Pope in Greece

28 December 2021 18:28
Phanar's lawyer attends the meeting between the Pope and the head of the Church of Greece. Photo: UOJ Phanar's lawyer attends the meeting between the Pope and the head of the Church of Greece. Photo: UOJ

In Greece, the Pope visited Archbishop Ieronymos twice. During one visit, he also met with a Phanar rep. What is this meeting about and what can be expected from it?

During the recent visit of Pope Francis to Greece, one interesting meeting took place, which remained behind the scenes of the world's media coverage. On December 4, inside the building of the Athenian Archdiocese, where the Pope arrived on a visit to Archbishop Ieronymos, lawyer Sakis Kahiyoglu met with him. This man gave the pontiff a gift – a book of poems by an Athos monk from Peru. The Pope, in turn, invited Kahiyoglu to the Vatican. Who is this person and what did he do at such a high level meeting?

Phanar and Rome: how to convince the Orthodox of the need for union?

In the last year or two, we have seen a whole waterfall of statements from Patriarch Bartholomew and the Pope about the imminent unity. But it is quite obvious that in order to achieve this goal, it is necessary to take a number of successive steps. One of them is to convince the Local Churches (including the “Greek” ones) of the need for union with Rome. This task is not easy, since both ordinary believers and a lot of Greek bishops are dead-set against uniting with heretics. Therefore, Phanariots and Catholics need to find special arguments for persuasion. The creation of the OCU in Ukraine showed how much “sanitary” these arguments can be. Bribery, blackmail, behind-the-scenes "agreements", threats and other “levers” – the participants in this venture openly spoke about this.

Let us remind you that following the “unification council”, the UGCC (the structure subordinate to the Pope) immediately spoke about the imminent unification with the OCU (the structure subordinate to Pat. Bartholomew).

Surely, the Pope met with the Orthodox hierarchy in Cyprus and Greece for the same purpose, because to promote the idea of unity with the "Holy See", there is a desperate need for the support of as many Orthodox Churches as possible.

There are two ways to achieve the goal:

  • ideological – through the development of the doctrine of primacy in the Church and "special rights" of the Patriarchate of Constantinople;
  • predatory – by blackmailing the Local Churches, since almost every Church has "soft spots" in the face of its schismatics. These schismatics can be granted a "tomos", which simultaneously includes them in a canonical orbit.

It is clear that the implementation of the above goals requires time and money. But even now, on the way to union with Catholics, there are things that can be procured quickly enough – for example, the support of a part of the hierarchs of the Greek and Cypriot Orthodox Churches. We will discuss below by what means this support will be extended.  

Who did the Pope meet with in Athens?

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The Pope receives a gift from the hands of Sakis Kahiyoglu. Archdiocese of Athens, December 4, 2021. Photo: https: cnn.gr

It would seem that the pontiff's meeting with an inconspicuous lawyer didn’t matter and looked almost accidental. Here are just a few interesting details that simply compel us to ask the question – what role is given to Kahiyoglu in the game of Phanar and the Vatican?

First, it's not so easy for a random person to meet the Pope. Secondly, the meeting took place not somewhere on the street, but in the building of the Athenian Archdiocese, where one can access only by invitation and thanks to one’s high status. Thirdly, not everyone who gives him a book is invited by the Pope to the Vatican. So what kind of person is this?

Sakis Kahiyoglu is one of the main board members of the Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation (about the Foundation and its tasks – below) and also one of the most famous and successful criminal lawyers in Greece, who acted as a defender of "hideous" offenders.

This man was born in Veria, studied in Thessaloniki, and in 1985 he moved to the United States (on the recommendation, by the way, of the then Prime Minister of Greece Konstantinos Mitsotakis, the father of the current Prime Minister of the country Kyriakos Mitsotakis), where he received financial support from the Phanariotic Archdiocese in America. Naturally, such assistance determined Kahiyoglu's attitude to Phanar. Because it was with the money of the Patriarchate of Constantinople that he studied at the American University School of International Service in Washington, DC. This allowed him to land a job in the US Senate as an HR assistant in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and in the office of Republican leader Senator Jesse Helms of North Carolina.

In 2001, Kahiyoglu opens his office in Greece, and in 2021 the head of Phanar appoints him a member of the board of the Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation.

In Greece, this appointment caused some bewilderment, since the newly-made board member of the "Foundation" "became notorious" for protecting criminals accused of the most serious crimes in the period from 2001 to 2018. For example, he defended Georgios Koskotas (Chairman of the Bank of Crete), who was accused of embezzling 32 billion drachmas from the bank. He was the defender of Kyriakos Apeirantis, accused of serial murder, rape and arson. He was the defender of Joseph Vaionis, who killed his wife, the defender of Christos Voulgarakis who killed his 12-year-old daughter. He advocated Theo Theodoridis, accused of importing 5 kg of cocaine, as well as Arketa Rizai, charged with kidnapping. Since 2001 (the time of opening his office in Greece) Kahiyoglu mainly specialized in cases related to crimes against life (murder), personal injury, drug trafficking, financial crimes, pimping-related offences, human trafficking, theft, embezzlement, robbery, extortion, fraud, money laundering, usury.

Of course, everyone has their own job, and one cannot make a judgment that Sakis Kahiyoglu has a dirty reputation. But in 2005, he was accused of involvement in the case of an alleged criminal group and received several years in prison, in which he spent 4 months. In 2010, he was sentenced to 6 years in prison, but was eventually acquitted on all counts.

However, despite the above scandals, Kahiyoglu enjoys the confidence of the Patriarch of Constantinople, and moreover, he always provides him with certain services. For example, in the high-profile case of the Vatopedi monastery, which, in addition to being the richest monastery on Athos, is also considered the “granary” of Phanar. Then, we recall, the former managing director of the State Real Estate Company Konstantinos Gracios was charged in the case of the exchange of real estate between the state and the Vatopedi monastery on Mount Athos. After apologizing to the special investigator, Gracios was released on probation, while the other defendants in the same case were considered temporarily detained (for some time, the Vatopedi Abbot Ephraim was also in prison). By the way, this case is still pending at the Athens Court of Appeal for Criminal Cases. This small detail is worth bearing in mind if the question arises as to why Abbot Ephraim does not oppose the decisions of Phanar, including the OCU.

In other words, Kahiyoglu is a "tried and true" person who can be entrusted with the most "delicate" assignments. In particular, he can be used as a "negotiator" in attempts to persuade the hierarchs of Greece and Cyprus to cling to the union with Rome. So it is unlikely that the man of Patriarch Bartholomew accidentally ran into a meeting between the Pope and Archbishop Ieronymos. Perhaps, given the experience of the lawyer, he had some particularly "convincing" arguments for the Primate of the Church of Greece.

However, the appearance of Kahiyoglu in the Athenian Archdiocese could seem accidental for Archbishop Ieronymos, but not for the Pope. If we turn to recent history, we can see that in 2018 Kahiyoglu already met with the pontiff, and again with the participation of Phanar. Then he visited the Vatican together with the Constantinople hierarch, Metropolitan Nikita of Thyatira.

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Sakis Kahiyoglu, Metropolitan Nikita, Pope Francis. Vatican, 2018. Photo: protothema.gr

Phanar, the State Department and the Vatican in the creation of the OCU

Kahiyoglu and Metropolitan Nikita are linked by an old acquaintance. The fact is that even before his ordination, Metropolitan Nikita in the mid-80s (it was the time when Kahiyoglu was working in the US Senate) acted as Personal Secretary of Congressman Michael Bilirakis from the Washington District. Later, the young man decided to exchange a promising political career for serving the Church, or rather, Phanar. Fortunately, his boss, Michael Bilirakis, didn’t mind it, since he faithfully served the Patriarchate of Constantinople as an Archon of the Order of the Apostle Andrew.

Here it is necessary to make a reservation and recall that relations between Phanar and the State Department are more than close. For example, it was the State Department that completely openly backed Phanar during the creation of the OCU, and today it is behind the “pushing” of the recognition of this structure among the Local Churches.

Naturally, the creators of the Dumenko structure – the US State Department and Phanar – play on win-win terms. Remember the adage “claw me and I will claw you”? The same is here – the State Department helps Phanariots achieve their goals, and they, in turn, reciprocate. Example? No problem.

One of the most ardent supporters of Filaret Denisenko (the one to whom Dumenko and Poroshenko promised leadership in the OCU in exchange for the Tomos of Autocephaly, but then deceived him) Dmitry Stepovik said that from 1999 to 2013 he traveled 13 times with the head of the UOC-KP to the United States.

According to him, Konstantinos Bilirakis (adviser to Mike Pompeo and the son of the very same Michael Bilirakis – congressman, archon of Phanar and former chief of Metropolitan Nikita) met repeatedly with “patriarch” Filaret to discuss the creation of the OCU. In return for the Tomos, Bilirakis demanded that Denisenko give up the parishes of the UOC-KP outside Ukraine. As a result, Filaret most likely agreed, since the OCU received legalization from Phanar, but can carry out its activities only within Ukraine as prescribed by the Tomos.

In other words, Bilirakis as the Phanar's representative in the State Department lobbies for the creation of the OCU, asking for certain preferences for the Patriarchate of Constantinople. The State Department helps him in this, because through the OCU it:

  • destroys the unity of the Orthodox Church;
  • creates a structure extremely hostile towards Russia and the Russian Church;
  • gets additional leverage over the Ukrainian authorities.

But the main thing is that the OCU can be used as a platform for the union of Orthodox Christians and Catholics (our next article is about why the State Department needs it). In this sense, the Vatican is inasmuch interested in the emergence of the OCU as the State Department. The algorithm is that, first, Orthodox and Catholics unite under the banners of the OCU, and then this scheme will be applied to all other Churches.

Here is what Ivan Datsko, President of the Institute of Ecumenical Studies of the Ukrainian Catholic University, says: “I wish we could restore full communion between the Catholic and Orthodox Churches by 2025. This is our main objective." He explained that under Pope Francis and Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople, “we have come so close that if not now, then, I don’t want to say, never. We will be missing out on a huge opportunity." He is convinced that it is necessary "for the future Ukrainian patriarch to be elected by both Orthodox and Catholics ... But we must make joint efforts to partake of the Eucharist of love together."

So, in 2018, Metropolitan Nikita (former secretary of Phanar Archon and Congressman Michael Bilirakis) and Sakis Kahiyoglu visit the Pope. In the same year, with the direct participation of the head of the State Department Mike Pompeo and his adviser Gus Bilirakis, the Patriarchate of Constantinople issues the Tomos to the OCU, and the Phanar-Vatican dialogue reaches the home stretch. Further, during the visit of the Pope to Cyprus and Greece, Francis calls for the complete unity of Orthodox and Catholics, and Sakis Kahiyoglu receives an invitation to visit the Vatican again. This time in a new status for himself – as a member of the board of the Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation. What role does this body play in all this melting pot?

Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation

The goal of the Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation, in the words of Metropolitan Elpidophoros of America, is to "create a legacy that can secure the financial future of the Ecumenical Patriarchate."

During the reception on the occasion of establishing the Foundation, the head of Phanar said that “(the foundation – Ed.) is a very worthy initiative, which is a practical proof of the respect and love of our believers here in the USA for the Mother Church, which has to deal with a thousand and two difficulties and a thousand and two problems. A lot of them are known to many. A lot of them are unknown. We are not talking about them. We are facing them, and they are the unspoken sighs of the Mother Church."

By the way, at the dinner of the founding members of the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation, former US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was invited as the keynote speaker (he initiated the emergence of the OCU, remember?).

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Michael Pompeo at a dinner honoring the founders of The Foundation. New York, October 29, 2021. Photo: protothema.gr


Speaking about the need to create a “Foundation” he had been dreaming of all his life, the head of Phanar noted that “the mission of the Patriarchate of Constantinople is, of course, spiritual. This is an ecumenical ministry in the name of believers, culture and all of humanity. But no matter how spiritual this work may be, material resources are needed to accomplish it."

We specify that material means are needed not for the preaching of the Gospel, not for the testimony of Christ, but for “ecumenical ministry” in the name of believers (of what religions?), culture and all of humanity. What exactly needs to be understood by these phrases is not difficult to guess, since both Patriarch Bartholomew and his companions speak bluntly about the need for unity with Rome and dialogue with other religions. So, for the implementation of these goals, almost 20 million dollars have been raised so far in the treasury of the Foundation.

Is it not surprising that Kahiyoglu becomes one of the core members of the board of the Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation, receives certain powers to distribute financial flows and an appointment from the Pope to meet in the Vatican?

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Patriarch Bartholomew and Sakis Kahiyoglu. New York, October 2021. Photo: protothema.gr

No, given the tasks and goals of both the "Foundation" and Phanar, as well as the reputation and connections of Kahiyoglu, there is nothing surprising about it.


  • The Pope came to Greece and Cyprus to meet with the heads of the two states and with the primates of the Churches of Greece and Cyprus.
  • The pontiff discussed the issues of migrants with the presidents of the countries; in particular, he does everything to make Greece and Cyprus turn into a kind of transshipment base for Muslims who want to get to Europe. Metropolitan Seraphim of Piraeus believes that such zeal of the Pope in relation to the issue of migration testifies to his desire not only to redraw the cultural map of Europe, but also to help finally destroy Christianity.
  • The Pope met with Archbishop Ieronymos and Archbishop Chrysostomos, whom he apparently persuaded to agree to the union with the RCC.
  • During a visit to the Archdiocese of Athens, he met with the representative of Phanar, Sakis Kahiyoglu, who happened to be there, and invited him to the Vatican. This man is a board member of the Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation, which raises funds to advance "ecumenical" goals. He has huge connections and some legal experience under his belt, knows the Pope and has already met him in the Vatican before – exactly in the run-up to the creation of the OCU.

It is very likely that he is the man who is exploited by Phanariots in order to make the Greek hierarchs more compliant in matters of union. He can also serve as a "weighty" argument in the fight against possible criticism of the Phanar's actions from the Athonites who have authority in the Orthodox world.

The goal of all these games, which have been going on for decades (remember the Bilirakis family), hasn't changed – to secure a single structure of Phanar and the RCC. In this respect, the OCU is only a link in one large chain that leads to a new syncretic religion that unites humanity.

However, this religion is hardly related to Christ.

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