New York, March 4, 2002 His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians worldwide, will present the Honorable George H. W. Bush, 41st President of the United States of America, and First Lady Barbara Bush with the Athenagoras Human Rights Award in New York City on Saturday, March 9, 2002.
Sponsored by the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the 17th Annual Athenagoras Award will be presented at the organization's annual grand banquet at the New York Hilton Hotel. This year marks the first time the Award will be presented to more than one individual and is unique in honoring the former President and First Lady collectively, as well as individually.
Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America and Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, will host the event which is expected to attract more than 1,500 Orthodox Christian laymen and clergy from across the country. Regarding the Patriarchal visit, the Archbishop stated, "The visit of His All Holiness to America in order to participate in the Athenagoras Award ceremonies constitutes a true blessing for all of us and lends even greater significance to this year's event."
It is also significant that the recipients of the Award are people who have had an important role in contemporary American and world history. "In geopolitical terms, President Bush presided over a period of unparalleled positive change," stated Anthony Limberakis, MD, National Commander of the Order of St. Andrew. "From the fall of Soviet Communism to the liberation of many oppressed peoples in the developing world, his White House term is increasingly recognized as one of tremendous historical importance, especially in the context of promoting human rights. Likewise, his enduring concern regarding humanitarian issues and the promotion of human dignity continue to be exemplified in the activities of the Points of Light Foundation," Dr. Limberakis said.
"The Order has also chosen to honor Barbara Bush as a most worthy recipient of the Athenagoras Award in her own right," Dr. Limberakis continued. She has demonstrated a commitment to principles and work that aid the needy, strengthen family and uplift the human spirit. Her activities with Boys and Girls Clubs of America, AmeriCares, the Barbara Bush Foundation for Family Literacy and many other organizations demonstrate a sustained and energetic concern for improving the lives of others. Through personal example as a family, as parents and by the most visible legacy of children who have dedicated a new generation to public duty and service, they are exemplars of the spirit and substance the Athenagoras Award celebrates."
Since 1986, The Athenagoras Human Rights Award has been presented annually by the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle to a person or organization which has " consistently exemplified by action, purpose and dedication, concern for the basic human rights and religious freedom of all people regardless of race, color or creed."
The Award, as the preeminent recognition for humanitarian works presented within the American Orthodox Community, is dedicated to the memory of one of the 20th centurys most notable Orthodox Christian religious leaders, Patriarch Athenagoras. Born in Greece on March 25, 1886, he rose through the clerical ranks to become Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America in 1931 and was elected to the office of Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople by the Holy and Sacred Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in November, 1948. Patriarch Athenagoras died in 1972.
"Athenagoras, as an Archbishop in America and ultimately as Patriarch, cultivated a new era of recognition and prestige for the Orthodox Church on an international and ecumenical level. Having established closer contacts between Orthodox Churches as well as with leaders of other Christian Churches and other faiths and denominations, his name became synonymous with love and compassion for all peoples," according to Archbishop Demetrios.
Athenagoras was the 268th successor to the ancient Patriarchal Throne established in Constantinople or New Rome by the Apostle Andrew. Although the jurisdictions of the Orthodox Church are largely self-governing, they share a common theology and recognize the Patriarchal See of Constantinople as the "Protothronos" or "first Throne" among the ancient and modern sees of Orthodox Christianity.
The Order of St. Andrew the Apostle is the U.S. organization of Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, an international group of church laymen recognized for outstanding service, dedication and loyalty. While these individuals are involved in contemporary activities of service and stewardship, the designation "Archon" and the individual titles that are bestowed upon them date to the era of the Byzantine empire. Currently, there are more than 700 Archons in America.
In addition to the presentation of the Athenagoras Award, forty-four new candidates will receive the "Archon" designation (or offikion meaning "office") during the weekend of March 9-10. An investiture ceremony will take place during a Patriarchal Divine Liturgy on Sunday, March 10, at the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Manhattan. Co-celebrating with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew will be members of the Eparchial Synod of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, members of SCOBA (Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in the Americas) and the Patriarchal Hierarchs accompanying His All Holiness. The services on Sunday begin at 8:30 AM with Matins and the Divine Liturgy at 10:00 AM. The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity is located at 319 East 74th Street, New York.
Athenagoras Human Rights Award Recipients:
2002 President George H.W. Bush and First Lady Barbara Bush
2001 Archbishop Anastasios of Albania
2000 Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu
1999 Elie Wiesel
1998 Nana Mouskouri
1997 Reverend Clergy of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese
1996 Order of AHEPA
1995 Hon. Edward Derwinski
1994 Hon. Paul S. Sarbanes
1993 George Douris
1992 Ladies Philoptochos
1991 Andrew A. Athens
1990 Hon. John Brademas
1989 Anthony G. Borden, MD
1988 Mother Theresa
1987 President Jimmy Carter
1986 Archbishop Iakovos