His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America
Remarks at the Eleftheria Banquet
The Federation of Hellenic Societies of Philadelphia
and the Greater Delaware Valley
Adelphia Restaurant - Deptford, New Jersey
March 19, 2022
Honorable Georgia Athanasopoulos, Grand Marshall and Consul General of Panama in Philadelphia,
Archon George Horiates, Tonight’s Eleftheria Medal Honoree
My Fellow Centennial Marshalls: Jimmy Kokotas, Supreme President of AHEPA, and Kathy Bizoukas, Daughters of Penelope Grand President,
Distinguished Guests, Reverend Clergy,
Beloved Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
What a glorious evening to be together, on the eve of our annual Greek Independence Parade. Yesterday, we raised the Flag of our Homeland at Philadelphia City Hall. Like at the beginning of the Revolution in 1821, the raising of our banner of victory in the City of Brotherly Love is the best way to commence our celebrations.
Last night, we chanted the Salutations to the Theotokos, in recognition of the purposes of God in our freedom – both political and spiritual – of the body and the soul. At both the flag-raising and last night, we were joined by Evzones, who bring glory and honor to our observances.
And tonight, we celebrate our community – the Omogeneia that keeps the glories of our past alive, and passes them on to the generations of the future. We are one family of Hellenes and Philhellenes. And we are one family in our Lord Jesus Christ.
In this year of 2022, we observe two momentous anniversaries of the Omogeneia: the Centenary of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America as an Eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the Centenary of the Order of AHEPA, the largest and most extensive Greek-American Organization in the United States. The fact that we celebrate these centennials together says much about our community. We are a community of deep roots, of profound depths of history, culture, language and faith.
As Greeks, we are equally ancient with the Gospel itself, because the Lord came forth from the Jewish People, whose history is as long as our own as Greeks. Our culture, our language and our values have existed for thousands of years and form the bedrock of Western Civilization. Paired with the Gospel, Greek Culture gave birth to the legacy that we call “Byzantine,” the remarkable συμφωνία that has lasted until this very day.
Nearly six hundred years after the Fall of Constantinople and the Roman Empire, we behold this συμφωνία still flourishing in the Ecumenical Patriarchate. And this συμφωνία is witnessed by our fellowship this evening.
Tonight, we honor with the Eleftheria Medal our beloved brother, George Horiates, the past Supreme President of AHEPA. He is a most worthy recipient, indeed, and he represents the fullness that AHEPA constitutes for the Omogeneia.
But I would like to remind all of you that the very first recipient of the Eleftheria Medal was the late Fr. Demetrios Constantelos – a remarkable scholar, priest, academic and theologian, who was the pride of our Church in America.
In these two honorees – the first and the most recent – we behold the συμφωνία that God has gifted to us: Church and Culture, Πίστις καὶ Παιδεία.
Therefore, my dear friends,
Let us embrace this evening as one Community in legacy, in faith and in the loving bonds of family.
Let us march together tomorrow as one Body. There will be over twenty Churches and over forty Greek Organizations. We are a strong and vibrant community.
Let us be grateful to God for our freedom to live as this community.
Let us be grateful to each other for the mutual support and efforts that we all bring to bear on behalf of our inheritance.
And with our spiritual and patriotic legacies in our hands and in our hearts, let us march tomorrow into the future for ourselves and for the generations to come. Thank you.