Patriarachal Acclamation for the Athenagoras Human Rights Award
His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew
October 8, 2022
To the very honorable Archon Dr. Anthony Limberakis, National Commander of the Order of St. Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Holy Great Church of Christ in the United States of America, beloved son of our Modesty in the Lord: May God’s grace and peace be with you.
It is worthy and right that the Order of St. Andrew is bestowing the Athenagoras Human Rights Award of 2022 to His Beatitude Theodore, Pope and Patriarch of Alexandria and All Africa, in honor of his great contribution to the Church and humankind, as well as his labors in support of the right to religious freedom in Africa, the great continent to which, as His Beatitude our brother says, “belongs the future.” We remind everyone that the Holy and Great council of the Orthodox Church (Crete 2016) highlighted the “fundamental human right” to “the protection of the principle of religious freedom in all its aspects--namely, the freedom of conscience, belief, and religion, including, alone and in community, in private and in public, the right to freedom of worship and practice, the right to manifest one's religion, as well as the right of religious communities to religious education and to the full function and exercise of their religious duties” (Encyclical, § 16).
We offer glory to God as the giver of all good things, the God of love and mercy, who granted to His people our brother, His Beatitude, as a servant and Patriarch of the ancient Alexandrian Church; the child of Crete, the land that gives birth to heroes and saints; the bearer and mouthpiece of the spirit and tradition of Agarathos, the historical Monastery of his repentance; the enthusiastic and gregarious shepherd; the protector of children and supporter of all those in need. Tomorrow, on October 9th, he completes eighteen years since his enthronement as Patriarch of the Throne of the Great City of Alexandria. Throughout this fruitful period of devoted leadership of the blessed Church of the Apostle Mark, Theodore of Alexandria has not ceased expressing his respect for the First-Throne Church of Orthodoxy and his love for our humble person, tangibly promoting the work of the Church of Constantinople on a panorthodox and ecumenical level, as well as the initiatives of its Primate and the privileges of the Ecumenical Throne.
What will never be forgotten is the definitive contribution of our dearly beloved brother and the position of the Church of Alexandria during the final stages of preparation for the Holy and Great Council and during its deliberations at the Orthodox Academy of Crete. His Beatitude stood firmly at the side of the Chairman of the Council, boldly upholding the work of the Council, and leaving his personal seal on its discussions. He received the applause of all the Fathers of the Council, when during a conversation on the “theology of the person” he intervened with a reminder that, when he would soon return to Africa, his flock there would seek from him solutions to daily practical challenges concerning their daily bread, clean water, cure of illness, schooling, protection of mothers and children, tangible sustenance and love. Our Lord associated the perspective of eternal life with our response to “the least of our brothers” (Mt. 25: 31–46).
The ecclesiastical mindset and unwavering faithfulness of His Beatitude to the canonical tradition of the Orthodox Church and to the age-long practice of the Church was also expressed courageously in his decision to recognize the Autocephaly granted by the Ecumenical Patriarchate to the Church of Ukraine. This act of Patriarch Theodore proved a decisive contribution to emphasizing the ecclesiological identity of Orthodoxy, which constitutes the basis of its unity. It was also a resounding response to those who defy central principles of the structure and function of church life in the name of interests that are foreign to church affairs, thereby reducing the divine-human communion of the Church to a worldly institution.
We congratulate you, most honorable National Commander and all members of the Order of St. Andrew, for your resolution to honor His Beatitude Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria and All Africa with your supreme award. For he also expresses the missionary dynamism of Orthodoxy and the Christ-like proclamation of the Gospel, fulfilling this sacred commission in the vast continent of Africa with love, humility and respect for the identity of human beings and the cultural individuality of each race. The missionary work of His Beatitude opens the gates of heaven to so many of our fellow human beings and is a genuine witness of the grace that came through Christ, who approaches each person by addressing his or her freedom with the superlative words: “whosoever wishes to follow me . . .” (Mark 8:34). On this point, too, Theodore of Alexandria is a genuine champion of human freedom.
In this spirit, then, we bestow on you and every honorable Archon our Patriarchal blessing, as we wholeheartedly embrace with a holy kiss our beloved and distinguished brother, Patriarch Theodore of Alexandria, expressing to him our most fervent congratulations for the deserved presentation of the Athenagoras Human Rights Award of 2022 and wishing him sound health and every blessing from above. Axios!
October 8, 2022