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Speeches and Addresses

Remarks and Introduction by Archon National Commander Anthony J. Limberakis, MD of Athenagoras Human Rights Award Honorees

© J. Mindala

(as prepared)

Order of Saint Andrew – Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate

New York Hilton Hotel
New York, New York
October 30, 2021

Your All-Holiness,
Your Eminence Geron Metropolitan of Chalcedon Emmanuel
Your Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America,
Your Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, formerly of America
Your Eminences, Your Graces, Reverend Fathers and Presbyteres,
Fr. Alex Karloutsos, our Spiritual Advisor
Your Excellencies
Esteemed Honorees,
Secretary and Archon-elect Azar,
Beloved Brother Archons,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

As National Commander of the Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and as a physician, I am extremely proud of the 2021 Athenagoras Human Rights Award Honorees:

Albert Bourla,

George D. Yancopoulos and Christos Kyratsous, and

Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci.

These pioneers in the healing arts have given the world an immeasurable gift in the vaccines and therapeutics that are helping to combat the Covid-19 pandemic.

While there is still a great deal of misinformation about this disease and the best way to treat it, I can tell you that as a radiologist, I see every single day how Covid-19 ravages the human body, especially the respiratory system as I review chest x-rays and CT scans.

We truly are one human family, and now more than ever we need to pull together and listen to the science. Our Ecumenical Patriarch, whose presence with us this evening is an extraordinary blessing, has led the way in global Orthodoxy, advocating for a love-thy-neighbor approach, to confronting this worldwide health crisis ensuring that poorer and underprivileged nations, as well as the prosperous nations of the world receive the life-saving vaccines and therapeutics.

As you know, every year I use this venue to raise awareness of breast cancer, as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and as the supervising radiologist for the Mammography Program for the City of Philadelphia Ambulatory Public Health Department, be reassured that the Archons stand in solidary with all those women and men overcoming Breast Cancer…..We salute you all! 

I must state again that I am so proud that the Archons have chosen to give their highest recognition – the Athenagoras Human Rights Award – to the scientists who have addressed a monumental scourge, COVID 19. For, at the end of the day, the most important human right is the right live and have access to life-saving Covid-19 vaccines and therapeutics, so that all people may conduct their lives in peace of mind and bodily security.

* * *

Peace and security. We hear much of these concepts in the modern world. But for the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, we who are called to be Defenders of the Faith, peace and security are much more than mere concepts. They are the daily and rigorous exercise of our utmost efforts on behalf of the Ecumenical Throne.

The Holy Mother Church of Constantinople, the First Throne of the Orthodox World and the spiritual aegis of all Pan-Orthodox, Ecumenical, and Interfaith endeavors, is a purely spiritual institution, bridging many different worlds. Tonight, for example, all the Abrahamic Faiths: Judaism, Christianity and Islam are represented in our laureates, and there is truly no Christian figure who has done more – and over a Thirty-Year reign – than His All-Holiness, to bring all the Children of Abraham together in peaceful relationships that are characterized by mutual respect, the understanding of different points of view, and the aspiration to live in harmony with one another.

As Archons of the Mother Church, we exert ourselves at every opportunity to ensure that this ministry of peace and mutual respect continues, for it is vital to our future as one human family. Whether one is Jewish, Christian, or Muslim, we all must live with one another, in an ever-changing world.

Like the great Theodosian Walls that surrounded Constantinople of old, and are still visible today in modern Istanbul, the Archons strive to provide every manner of protection to the Mother Church and to the sacred person of His All Holiness, our spiritual father in Christ.

This is precisely why we have spearheaded the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation, to ensure the financial security for the spiritual work of the Sacred See of Saint Andrew in perpetuity.

The Foundation is a major effort – our largest to date – to amass resources for the future, and to keep the brilliant light shining in the Phanar for generations to come. And with his wise counsel, our Ecumenical Patriarch has asked that the Foundation be allowed to grow for at least five years, before any commitments are made. Once again, our Spiritual Father manifests the prudent and judicious stewardship of the Ecumenical Patriarchate that he has has shown the world for thirty years.

Think of it! A generation has grown into adulthood under his astute and enlightened leadership.

Your All Holiness:

We give thanks for you every single day!

As Defenders of the Faith, however, our role is greater than to be wise oikonomoi of the gifts of God on behalf of the Mother Church. We are also called to advocacy.

And that is why our Religious Freedom Project is unyielding and tireless in the pursuit of the human and religious rights of the Ecumenical Patriarchate around the world. Whether in the hallowed Halls of Congress, or at the White House and State Department, at the European Union in Brussels or at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg or in Ankara itself, or in each of the 50 states in America or the OSCE, the largest human rights meetings in Europe, the Archons relentlessly fight for religious freedom on behalf of the Mother Church, the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

And that is why, against tremendous pressures from both state actors and brother Orthodox, the Mother Church granted canonical liberty to the 45 million Orthodox People of Ukraine with the Tomos of Autocephaly. And the Archons indeed stand with the Great Church of Christ in this proclamation of religious freedom! Hence, just two years ago, we honored with the same Award we bestow this evening, Metropolitan Ephiphanius, the Primate of the now Autocephalous Orthodox Church of Ukraine. Many have feared to support the Mother Church, but the Archons have and will always stand firm, Your All-Holiness, with you and with the Sacred Center of our Faith, the Phanar.

These are just several examples of our commitment and our dedication. There are as many other examples of our devotion as there are Archons, but I will leave them to be discovered in due time.

Before we view our Tribute Video of our esteemed Honorees, please allow me a moment of Personal Privilege to express deep gratitude for the tremendous Archon Stewardship of Time, Talent and Treasure of so many in the Archon Family who made this evening possible.  Firstly, I extend our deep gratitude to our spiritual father in America, Archbishop Elpidophoros who supports the domestic and international Archon efforts on behalf of the Mother Church.  Allow me to recognize our beloved spiritual advisor Fr. Alex, along with Presvytera Xanthi who themselves received the 2018 Athenagoras Human Rights Award; our two $100,000 Banquet underwriters beginning with Nicholas J. Bouras of blessed memory represented by his Foundation Trustee the Honorable B. Theodore Bozonelis and Banquet Chair, Archon Michael G. Psaros all $100,000 Banquet Underwriters. Indeed, we thank all of you who contributed to this evening’s Banquet at various levels, a portion of the net proceeds of which will augment the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation which was formally established and in just 10 months has raised over 18 million dollars. 

Kindly refer to the Words of Gratitude Insert in this evening’s program that delineates our fantastic Archon Team who made this evening possible, including Co-Chair Archon Alex Pritsos. Archons Andrew Veniopoulos, Nick Furris, George Gigicos and the creative John Mindala and our administrator Christa Pourou and the Foundation’s Leah Kats Bizoumis who have all done a phenomenal job.  Allow me to publicly thank Leah Kats Bizoumis for inviting her beloved Mother and family to become FOUNDERS of the Bartholomew Foundation! And we thank Archon Konstantine Vellios who once again donated the magnificent floral arrangements that grace us this evening.

Finally, allow me to express my deep gratitude to my beloved family represented by Maria my bride of 46 years and my beloved and newly engaged daughter Elizabeth with her fiancé Praneet Alone; whose constant support and encouragement has been essential to our family’s diakonia to the Holy Mother Church.

And so, with gratitude to all, I now ask you to sit back and view our Tribute Video which describes in word and image the momentous contributions to our world, and attests to the worthiness of our Honorees:

Albert Bourla, of Pfizer

George D. Yancopoulos and Christos Kyratsous of Regeneron, and Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci BioNtech

The Tribute Video please


Please rise as I invite to the podium His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros

For the extraordinary contributions to the ultimate human right, the right to live free of the Pandemic, we present to these modern-day Extraordinary Children of Abraham the 2021 Athenagoras Human Rights Award through the hands of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, and His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America:

Albert Bourla, PhD, DVM, CEO of Pfizer,

Dr. Bourla, would you be so kind as to accept the Award for Dr. Sahin and Tureci, who could not be here this evening.  Thank you…

Uğur Şahin, MD and Özlem Türeci, MD, Co-Founders BioNTech,

Dr. George D. Yancopoulos I invite you  and Dr. Christos Kyratsous of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals,