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Speeches and Addresses

Address of Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at Athenagoras Human Rights Award Dinner Honoring Dr. Albert Bourla, Dr. Ugur Sahin, and Dr. George D. Yancopoulos

© GOA / D. Panagos

New York Hilton Hotel

October 30, 2021

* * *

Your Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros,
Most Reverend Metropolitans and Bishops,
Honorable Alex Azar, our Master of Ceremonies,
Distinguished Honorees,
Esteemed Archons of the Ecumenical Throne,
Beloved Children in the Lord,

It has been twelve years since we were able to be present in this superb occasion, named for our righteous and ever-memorable predecessor on the Ecumenical Throne, Patriarch Athenagoras. On that evening, we stressed the importance of the work of the Order of Saint Andrew, and we must do so again now. The Archons have been a true and firm pillar of support for the Mother Church in ways that are often not immediately apparent to the casual observer. They offer much needed advocacy and resources, so that the spiritual initiatives of the Mother Church can be exercised effectively and without constraint.

Suffice it to say, that with the establishment of the Foundation named for our humble person, which we celebrated last evening, the Archons of the Order of Saint Andrew have moved into a new and preeminent level of global leadership. As ever, they have excelled in all that they do, in cooperation with their Exarch, His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros, and with the sage guidance of their spiritual advisor, Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Throne Alexander Karloutsos. I want to thank all the Archons, especially the National Commander Dr. Anthony Limberakis, and all of you, who have brought these efforts into fruition.

Tonight, we join with all of you in granting the honor of the Athenagoras Human Rights Award to true paragons of science, and the pursuit of healing for the entire human family:

Albert Bourla, of Pfizer,

Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci of BioNTech, and

George D. Yancopoulos and Christos Kyratsous, of Regeneron.

They are truly “Worthy,” ΑΞΙΟΙ, of the Athenagoras Human Rights Award. For they have labored to help save our planet from the scourge of the COVID-19 Pandemic. Through the therapies that they have pioneered, they have brought a concrete hope that we can once again engage life, secure in our bodily health.

They have set their scientific expertise in the service of humanity. Indeed, their academic and scientific achievements are a cause for optimism, for they represent how the human mind, motivated by the common good, can produce what is best in the heart of humanity, and what is best for the future of humanity. The presence of Secretary Azar tonight, adds to the noteworthiness of the evening. For he was deeply involved in the efforts to make of our honorees’ labors a success for all people.

We are particularly moved by the fact that Dr. Bourla began his scientific career at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in veterinary medicine. This manifests a love of all God’s creatures – “great and small,” as the psalmist says.* Our own Theological School of Halki – a School for which the Archons have labored and which your Archbishop himself has successfully administered as Abbot of the Holy Patriarchal Monastery of the Holy Trinity – is home to many of God’s creatures that we would call our friends.

The connectivity of all living beings is a vital key to understanding how to relate to the material world, and how to use science for the good of living beings. This concern for all God’s creatures is necessary for a wholesome and healthy ecology of the world, something we have advocated for decades.

All of the honorees this evening have distinguished themselves in their respective field of pharmacology. This most ancient science of medicine reaches back across the millennia to the mythic figure of Asclepius. The famous Rod of Asclepius finds its twin in the Bronze Serpent of Moses – τὸν ὄφιν τὸν χαλκοῦν† that Moses raised in the wilderness, and to which our Lord Jesus Christ compared Himself, when He said:

And as Moses raised up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be exalted, so that whoever believes in him might not perish, but lay hold of life eternal. ‡

Our honorees do not promise us life everlasting, but their contributions are making it possible for us to live out our lives in this world with greater health. They are providing us with life-saving medicines, so that we may partake of τὸ φάρμακον ἀθανασίας – the “medicine of immortality” -- ὅς ἐστιν … ἀντίδοτος τοῦ μὴ ἀποθανεῖν, ἀλλὰ ζῆν ἐν Ἰησοῦ Χριστῷ διὰ παντός – “which is the antidote to dying, and is rather life in Jesus Christ forever,” as Saint Ignatios of Antioch says.§

Our esteemed scientists and laureates of the evening: Perhaps you were unaware of the theological implications of your labors. But you all have, in your own way, connected things below to

things above, or as we say in a most ecologically profound prayer at Theophany, the Baptism of our Lord Jesus Christ:

Σήμερον τὰ ἄνω τοῖς κάτω συνεορτάζει, καὶ τὰ κάτω τοῖς ἄνω συνομιλεῖ.

Today things above keep feast with things below, and things below holds converse with things above.**

Wherefore, we congratulate both you for your achievements and the honorable Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of our Ecumenical Patriarchate, for recognizing you. You all have the gratitude and the commendation of the Holy Mother and Great Church of Christ, our Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople.

As Ecumenical Patriarch and the spiritual father of this assembly, we offer our heartfelt prayers for your continued success, for your good health and the health of your families. And we pray especially for the healing of our world – not only from this pandemic, but from all imbalance in the natural order that leads to the degradation of our planet.

We ask our Merciful and Loving God to grant all of us the wisdom and the humility to see ourselves as part of the greater whole, so that we might activate His redemption in the world by our behavior and by our intentions.

May the Lord bless you all.