Patriarchal flag to fly over GOA churches?

Byzantine Flag

Word on the street is that Met. Methodios of Boston (GOA) told his priests yesterday that each parish must start flying the patriarchal flag.

The Archons are donating the flag pole.


  1. Is there an AOI reader out there who can give us an analysis of the symbolism of the flag and its history? Is there a difference between the flag of the EP and the flag of Byzantine Empire? How has the flag been used in the past by the EP? How has the flag been used in recent times? I poked around on the internet but there seems to be some confusion out there. If you go back to the EP Riverboat cruise when the EP touched down at Andrews AFB I do not think the people present were waiving the yellow flag but a white flag with a red symbol saying Ecumenical Patiarch in English and Greek. This is the logo you see in the EP and GOA website its used during official visits.

  2. Geo Michalopulos :

    Andrew, to my mind, it’s not which Byzantine flag will fly, but why any Byzantine flag will fly? Are these people really so boneheaded? If there was any doubt in my mind that the episcopal assemblies are nothing but obstacles to true autonomy and unity, this should provide yet another nail in the coffin of that hope.

  3. Did you know the EP’s new flags are connected to the internet? They are programmed to send up a big puff of white smoke when the bachelor synod meets in Turkey.

    Ok, you know this whole thing is an April Fool’s joke, right? Seriously a Byantine Flag flying above the cross of an Orthodox church? No way.

    • Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

      Well, that’s what I thought at first so I double checked. It looks like it is in the works.

  4. John Larocque :

    Here in Toronto, I drive by a Greek church on the way to work and noticed yesterday for the first time that they now have tthe yellow Imperial flag next to the Greek flags. “What is this?!??” Then I saw this blog entry which seems to explain everything.

    This reminds me of the Vatican flag often displayed on the inside of Roman Catholic churches. I wonder if the symbolism is the same.

  5. Geo Michalopulos :

    Harry, your point being?

  6. Come on now. You’ve had your fun but I just can’t believe any church with ‘Orthodox’ on the front is going to have any national flag except maybe the local one in a hallway or off to the side in the church. Nobody is going to believe an Orthodox Patriarch asked for a flag to be put on a pole at a hieght outside close to the cross.

    April Fools day is over now, come on let’s just move on. The flag of the Imperial Byzantine Empire above churches in America. Sure. Real Sane. That will REALLY get people to join! Holy Moses.

  7. Scott Pennington :

    It doesn’t sound at all far fetched to me. I go to a Greek Orthodox Church in the Midwest/Upper South and we’ve had an Imperial Byzantine flag flying from time to time from one of the flag poles attached to a column on the front of the church. Actually, in a funny seg-way, a Greek girl whose father is a Russian history buff came up to the front of the church one day when the flag was flying and asked, “Why is a Russian Imperial Flag flying in front of our church?”

    The flag is the double headed eagle that represents the Roman Empire. Byzantium adopted the symbol as representative of its status as the New Rome. The Russian Empire later adopted a version of it (with the addition of a number of crests representing different territories/nationalities of the Empire) as representative of its status as the “Third Rome”. On my wall at home I have a Russian Imperial flag very reminiscent of the above flag, as well as a modern Russian Federation flag.

    No big deal to me.

    Also, for anyone who’s particularly interested in this kind of thing, the sceptre in the eagle’s left claw represents the imperial authority. The orb with the cross atop in its right claw represents leadership of the Imperial Church over the Christian world.

  8. I actually think the patriarchal flag is an improvement over the Greek or Cypriot flags being flown as it is at least nominally a step away from the various nationalisms so prevalent in Orthodoxy. The patriarchal flag is the flag of the episcopal jurisdiction of that church rather than its national or ethnic affiliation, and thus a step toward seeing the Church as of greater import in the life of a parish than ethnic affiliation.

    The fact that the patriarchal flag is, was or incorporates Byzantine imperial imagery is to be expected given the history of the see of Constantinople before and after the city’s fall to the Turks.

    I don’t think anyone would have a problem were the MP churches to begin flying the flag of the Patriarch of Moscow rather than the Russian, Ukrainian, Belorussian, etc. flags. I would support a similar move in the OCA so that the flag of the OCA or the Metropolitan would fly instead of the American, Romanian, Bulgarian and Albanian flags.

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      Orrologion, there already are two flags that the OCA parishes could fly: The American one and the Canadian one. We are in North America after all.

    • Not too long ago, Fr. John Udics designed a flag for Orthodox Christians in North America. “It was submitted to the Synod of Bishops of the Orthodox Church in America, but we have not heard their reaction to the flag proposal.”

      Follow the link and scroll down to the graphic and surrounding description.

    • Chris, I seem to remember that the HVP cathedral in NYC flew this very flag under discussion back around 2000; I thought it was a ‘cool’ and ‘katholic’ gesture and we never mentioned it. But context is everything. I really would like to see the church flags being flown, since a big problem in some parishes is a lack of ecclesial identity. Where can I buy an OCA flag for my mission parish?

  9. Geo Michalopulos :

    The idea of any flag other than an American or Canadian flag flying over a North American Orthodox church is preposterous. Would you feel any better if it were an Israeli flag or a Turkish flag, or the old flag of the USSR? Let’s be real.

    • Scott Pennington :


      I suppose, having my druthers, it might be better not to fly any secular flag whatsoever on church property. Nonetheless, I don’t really think that the Phanar is preparing an invasion. One day, George, you’ll wake up and wherever you are, it will be Byzantium. [insert smiley face] 🙂

  10. Geo Michalopulos :

    Scott, I appreciate a joke as much as the next guy. What bothers me is not the flag per se, but the sentiment behind it. That is, the complete unseriousness regarding unity and local autonomy. If this is not an effort to undercut it, then nothing is. Think about it, no mention was made to the GOA parishioners regarding the offer of Turkish citizenship or the mandatory ceding of diocesan properties to the Phanar. Why not? Because the GOA bishops, even the politcally unsavvy ones, knew how outrageously it would be met by those who pay the bills. Otherwise, why the silence? Even Methodius –whom I rarely agree with–was chagrined when he announced this to his priests. It’s that stupid of a move.

  11. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :

    I think the Lutherans should fly the Hapsburg flag.

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      Fr Hans, you’re wrong. The Lutherans would fly the Hohenzollern flag, not the Hapbsburgs (as they were a Catholic empire :-)) Of course if your point is that we can get around secular flags by flying only the colors of defunct empires, then the GOA and the OCA/ROCOR/MP would get into a shouting match over which empire is more defunct –the Byzantine or the Russian.

  12. Lutherans and the Hapsburg flag? Well, half the Anglicans can fly the British Union Jack while the ones with the gay bishops can fly … you know there are just so many ways to finish that sentence I’m just going to leave it there.

  13. …it might be better not to fly any secular flag whatsoever on church property.

    This was my point. I don’t need or want the American flag over or in my parish. The parish is beyond nationality or ethnicity, while embracing those of any nation or ethnicity. Flying the insignia of the local church one is a member of would seem to be a good step in that direction. Like it or not, the Church was preserved in its fullness in churches beholden to the Church in and of the eastern Roman Empire and those in its political and cultural orbits – thus, the two-headed eagle.

    Of course, I’d prefer simply the cross, but the flag of the local church would be acceptable, too.

    If the EP were to institute this across all its eparchies while at the same time removing or ‘lowering’ the flags of various nations and ethnicities, well, this would seem to be a first step toward the EP beginning to act ‘ecumenical’ within its own jurisdiction. This could be seen as stressing the unity of the Church over and against our separate, ‘less important’ ethnic and national identities – at least within the Church itself. We can only hope this is a move away from the separate but equal/apartheid ecclesiology of overlapping ethnarchates under a unifying Patriarch (which are to be found in the OCA, “St Tikhon’s vision” and the Roman church as much as in the EP).

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      orrologion, I may have problems with the current regime in Washington (yes, I used that word knowing the full implications of what “regime” means) but as a Christian I’m bound by Scripture and holy Tradition to be a patriot. As such there is nothing wrong with an American flag flying over an American parish. Having been to Greece, I see nothing wrong, nor was ever offended by, a Greek flag flying near Orthodox churches.

      • Fr. Peter Dubinin :

        Gotta a say I’m in agreement with Orrologion. Dare I say, during my time as an Army Chaplain conducting services for Orthodox Christians in a military chapel, the first thing I did as part of my Sunday morning set up was to remove the American Flag from the sanctuary. I am a patriot, fly the American flag from my home but do not believe there is a place within the worship space of Orthodox Christians for a flag of any country let alone a flag of a patriarchate – C’mon, there are banners (flags if you will) of Christ and the Theotokos within our churches and along with the processional Cross at the front of our processions we process with these banners; don’t think there is an need for any other flags. Our citizenship is in heaven as the Holy Scriptures tell us and the Cross is our “flag.” We present as Orthodox Christians very well on paper – in the books – and as such, we will continue to attract people to the Church of Jesus Christ, but we will begin to see an increase in the number of these folk leaving our parishes the longer this kind of nonsense – flying flags of foreign patriarchates on Church property – continues.

        Fr. Peter

        • Scott Pennington :

          Guys (and Fr. Peter),

          The reason I wrote above that it might be a good idea not to have any secular flag on church property wasn’t that I don’t think patriotism is a good thing or that the church is beyond nationalities (which it is). The reason, for me, is that it is all too easy to confuse patriotism and piety. Patriotism can easily bleed into piety and distort it. Don’t think that we are above confusing American values with Christian values anymore than some in GOARCH or the Phanar are above confusing omogenia with Orthodoxy.

          Long before there was a US, before there was modern democracy, before the “Enlightenment”, there were a well developed set of Christian values. These Christian values may not exclude Enlightenment/Liberal/traditional American values, but they don’t necessarily include them either.

          • Michael Bauman :

            The biggest disparity between ‘modern’ values and Christian ones is the understanding of hierarchy and obedience. Of course, there are many different types of hierachies and obedience can be life affirming or toxic.

            Discernment is necessary.

            My own understanding of the traditional hierachy in the Church is that it is what I’ll call a nested hierarchy in which, through communion with Jesus Christ, love and respect flow in a multitude of directions with authority being vested in the hierarchs. It seems to me to follow the Incarnational model of God becoming man. The monarchical, top-down linear hierarchy does not.

            Unfortunately, it is easier to establish and ‘lead’ a monarchial hierarchy than a nested one. However, self-will tends to dominate such hierarchies. Such monarchs need flags as part of their “sceptered sway, their attribute to awe and majesty”. Tryanny, revolt and anarchy are the ususal fruits if ossification is avoided. If ossification sets in the result is a slow, lingering journey into the twilight of irrelevance and eventual dissolution.

            Hierarchs in a nested community have to have mercy, discernement and sacrificial love. Obedience and freedom can and will florish.

        • Christ is risen!
          When the priests wave the aer, while we are saying the Creed, I’ve told my sons that the priests are waving the flag and we are saying the pledge of allegiance.

    • Christos anesti!
      The Phanar would have to first redeem the flag of the Millet-i Rum. Right now it is just as Greek, er, Hellenic, as the blue and white.

      The fact that this comes just before the Episcopal Assembly scheme was to be set into motion is not encouraging.

  14. Michael Bauman :

    Gee guys, I feel left out. What flag should we Antiochians fly? Turkish, Syrian, Lebanese? The Antiochian Patriarchate has dioceses in her that go back to Roman times (long before Constantine was an imperial glimmer), should we fly the Roman Imperial flag?

    It might get real confusing in my parish which is about 50% Lebanese descent, the rest is a mixture of Slavs, Romanians, Anglo-Germanic converts, Italians, Ethiopians, Egyptians, Greeks, even a couple of Native Americans and Afro-Americans. (We have fun with Agape Vespers and the list of languages in which we are fluent for the Paschal greeting/response keeps growing every year).

    Does that mean we get to pick any flag we want or do we have to rotate?

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      Michael, if you do fly the Roman Imperial standard, make sure these letters are in the correct sequence: “SPQR.”

  15. Michael,

    The EP would be very happy for unity to occur by your parish flying his flag. Is there a problem? There wasn’t yesterday but behold, the Ecumenical Patriarchate (currently about 30 bachelors in Istanbul and now all the bishops here can become Turkish citizens.. you know, for growth and unity).

    Anyhow, the Pope has one and so the EP wants one too! No doubt it will bring in people by the carload once they see it. You can imagine, American kids and their parents driving by in the car.. ‘Ohh Mommy, what’s that pretty flag over there, it has a yellow chicken with two heads, let’s go to THAT church…’. And Mommy says, “Silly you, it’s a black chicken with two heads on a yellow flag, and it’s probably not really even a chicken. Let’s go ask”. And the nice man in the stove pipe hat, beard and bun-in-the-back can explain that it really supports the Byzantine Empire, you know, where Turkey is now sort of South and East of Paris, and neither Christ nor any of the Apostles ever went there but some Crusaders did and they were really mean. Yup, that will have us adding chairs down the sides to hold all the extra people.

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      Harry, you hit it on the head! Just when you think that the Phanariotes couldn’t get any more ridiculous, they do. What’s next, parish council members dressed in imperial regalia attended by eunuchs who make deep prostrations before leaving their presence? Lord have mercy.

    • Geo Michalopulos :

      you know Harry, the EP could kill two birds with one stone with the two-headed chicken flag: he could not only proclaim the resurrection of the Byzantine Empire but also the ecological damage done by mutations to livestock and wildlife.

    • Dean Calvert :

      Hi Harry,

      Christos Anesti!!!

      Can you believe it? These guys just keep topping themselves, don’t they?

      I wonder if I can get a flag pole from the archons if I promise to fly the flag at St Andrew House?

      You couldn’t make this stuff up….

      Ti Hallia.

      Best Regards,

      • Our project is to preserve the spirit of our many various doings, but change the activities to convey the original spirit in the situation we find ourselves in right here right now.

        It is fair to ask how such a flag has done for the people over there. Attendance at Orthodox churches in Turkey up as a result of this flag? Worked there so they are sending it here? Yes? Right. Exactly.

        Take a look at the whole ‘foot washing’ thing. Right now I guarantee you that in every country in the world where people don’t follow their yak or cow or sheep to and from the pasture twice a day ‘foot washing’ is something that happens in a lady’s health spa along with really shiny toe-nail paint.

    • Scott Pennington :


      “Ohh Mommy, what’s that pretty flag over there, it has a yellow chicken with two heads, let’s go to THAT church . . .”

      That’s the funniest thing I’ve read in weeks. Thank you.

    • Christ is risen!

      LOL. I had to post this at

      (btw, the legends of St. Andrew founding Byzantium predates St. Constantine. The grandios claims of the Phanar, of course, do not).

  16. Isa Almisry :

    May I suggest where to put the flag pole?

  17. Fr. Johannes Jacobse :


  18. Geo Michalopulos :

    An example of an American Orthodox flag.

    • Scott Pennington :

      I thought it was funny.

      • Geo Michalopulos :

        Thanks Scott, I thought it was too. Just for the record, the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia (the old “Stars and Bars”) is a patently Christian symbol. The “X”-shaped cross is the Cross of St Andrew, patron saint of Scotland. You can also find it on the Bonnie Blue of Scotland itself as well as the flag of Jamaica.

        • Scott Pennington :


          And so appropriate on this day in particular, the anniversary of Lee’s surrender. Be wary though George, if Constantinople is the See of St. Andrew (the “Elder Brother”), they might claim that if you fly that flag you are acknowledging their exclusive jursidiction in the U.S. [pause for laughter]

          One slight correction though, the X-shaped cross of St. Andrew does not appear on the “Stars and Bars”. The Stars and Bars was the first official flag of the Confederacy, not the battle flag to which you are referring. The S&B consisted of a thick red “bar” over a thick white “bar” over another thick red “bar”. In the upper left hand corner was a blue field with 7 white stars in a circle. Later the stars were increased to 11 (when 4 states of the upper South seceded) and then to 13 (to include Kentucky and Missouri, each of which had dueling governments).

    • Stephen G. Rigdon :

      Let’s go back to the fish symbol: ICTHYS, or back to the drawing board.

  19. Pete in Chicago :

    Not funny George

  20. Why does Orthodoxy need a flag?

    This is very unnecessary to say the least.

  21. S. Danckaert :

    This flag can be seen outside of churches and monasteries in the New Lands, Rhodes, Crete, Mt. Athos, etc. I’ve heard many common folk refer to it as the “Orthodox” or “Christian” flag. It’s seen as a religious symbol. Nothing new with churches displaying it.

  22. Why does Orthodoxy need a flag?

    I agree.

    It should be noted that both the flag of Greece and the patriarchal flag fly over the Holy Epistatia and the Protaton church in Karyes on Mount Athos:

    Of course, this is because the Holy Epistatia is also the government of the Republic of Mount Athos which has a constitutional, autonomous relationship with the Republic of Greece (and the EU), so it makes sense that the two Republics’ flags fly over their government building. In some ways, Mount Athos is, in fact, the last remnant of a territorial Byzantine or eastern Roman Empire. One may even be able to say the same regarding the Phanar. So, it makes sense that they would fly the old Byzantine flag as the patriarchal flag.

    Perhaps this is part of how the EP is trying to position itself on the world stage – not as an Orthodox Vatican in the way rhetoric is wont to go, but using something like the precedent of Vatican City (as a sovereign state with general international recognition) in international affairs in the EP’s bid to protect its survival in Istanbul (i.e., without relocating) with ecclesiastical jurisdiction in and beyond the borders of Turkey into the future.

    All this begs the question, though, as to why this political flag should be flown over parishes under the EP that are in no way politically tied to this nascent Phanar State. How is that same issue handled around the world relative to Catholic churches flying the flag of the ‘sovereign state’ of Vatican City? Does the US or other countries – or the Vatican itself – view churches flying the Vatican flag as being the ‘sovereign territory’ of the Vatican in the way embassies abroad are view as the ‘sovereign territory’ of that nation?

    I’m having a difficult time understanding what all these political moves by the EP (e.g., Turkish citizenship for bishops, transferring deeds on real estate abroad, a political symbol such as the patriarchal flag) are meant to achieve. What is the EP angling for? Who are these moves attempting to appease (e.g., Ankara, Brussels)? Are these moves meant to aggravate (e.g., Ankara, Athens, Moscow?) How might these moves – were they to be successful – be incorporated into the ecclesiological standards being developed or envisioned in Chambesy? Is the EP being positioned for a primacy with metochia around the world rather than broad swaths of territory (i.e., perhaps North America and Western Europe will be self-governing, but the EP will have representation churches in each Metropolis to ‘lead’ and ‘affect’ these jurisdictions)?

  23. I see no reason to fly any flag over the Church. While we owe to Caesar what is Caesars (unfortunately, the resemblance is becoming clearer), that does not include the City of God. The fact that the British or English flag (not the same) is commonly flown at Episcopal Churches is hardly a ringing endorsement. (Any more the Episcopal Church is a better counter-indicator than a benchmark.) Nor does it matter to me that the Scottish flag is flown at Presbyterian Churches, or . . . .

    At the risk of sounding either strident or sectarian: the cross and the cross alone.
    As our ascetical practice and liturgical service both make clear:

    . . . our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Phil. 3:20)

    If St. Paul, who was “a Hebrew of Hebrews” – an affiliation with a much stronger claim to divine preference than any other – should then

    count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ

    should we do less? We can’t. He doesn’t give us that option. Instead:

    Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you.

    Ethnic or political flags don’t move us in this direction.
    The cross alone does.

  24. Christos anesti!


    doubt has been expressed that Met. Methodius has really issued such a directive, as expressed by a protopriest of his diocese. Does anyone in Boston have any thing contrary?

  25. cynthia curran :

    Well, George when I was in Italy I saw the Spqr meaning the Senate and People of Rome on a mall floor in Venice. Actualy, the Senate influence went down a lot by eastern Roman times and the Consulship which was only one consul by the 6th Century only was a honor was finally abolished by Justinian because of the consul giving money and holding games to save a little money. And his first consulship during his uncle Justin reign is where we find out his real name of Petrus Sabbatius on the consul dytich.

  26. I think the idea of the flags here must be because of all the people they have brought to the parishes when the flags were added in Turkey. Right? Yes? Exactly.

Care to Comment?