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SPEECH delivered by National Commander Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis during the Grand Banquet at the 2007 annual Archon assembly
October 27, 2007
The Exarch and the Archon Mission
Your Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America, Respected Metropolitans Hierarchs and clergy who serve the Ecumenical Throne in the United States, Your Eminence Cardinal McCarrick, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, Your Excellencies Ambassador Mallias of Greece and Ambassador Kakouris of Cyprus, Your Excellency Prof. Andonios Trakatellis Vice President of the European Parliament, Commander Emeritus Dr. Chris Philip, members of the diplomatic corps, distinguished guests of the dais, brother Archons, ladies and gentlemen,
This evening we honor our beloved spiritual father Archbishop Demetrios of America with the 2007 Athenagoras Human Rights Award. He united our Church, energized the Holy Archdiocese, and established new ministries and outreach to spread the word of salvation and redemption. After the tragedy of 9-11 His Eminence offered immediate, inspiring leadership of comfort, hope and promise to the citizens of this great city and our beloved Country the United States of America. On the occasion of his 40th Anniversary of his ordination to the Episcopacy and in thanksgiving for his 47 years in the priestly order of Melchizedek, he has demonstrated exemplary service to humankind as an Orthodox hierarch, theologian, statesman and biblical scholar. AXIOS! AXIOS! AXIOS! and on the occasion of the Feastday of St. Demetrios we offer our filial congratulations…CHRONIA POLLA.
From our unique perspective as Defenders of the Faith, as Archons of the Mother Church, Archbishop Demetrios, the Exarch serves in an extraordinary capacity vis a vis the Archon Mission. The relationship of the Order with the Exarch is as remarkable as it is synergistic. Nearly every month the Archon Leadership meets His Eminence in his private office at the Archdiocese. In these holy chambers we discuss the most profound issue that affects religious freedom in the world, the potential extinction of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at the hands of the government of Turkey. We strategize, we plan, we discuss ramifications and we leave inspired and challenged to move forward in our multifaceted strategy to secure religious freedom. It is as if we had a somber conversation with an individual who has the combined qualities of one's father, brother, co-worker and one's friend while simultaneously demonstrating the piety, acute intellect and practical judgment that has become the archbishop's moniker. It really is an experience to which the Archon Leadership looks forward every month and one that has resulted in concrete accomplishment in conveying the message of Religious Freedom to the four corners of the world. This is the relationship of the Exarch to the Archon mission. This is the relationship of the good shepherd who sacrifices for his flock and knows each one by name.
This past year the Archons intensified our efforts to Defend the Mother Church as its survival has become more imperiled by recent decisions of Turkey's Supreme Court. A remarkable 75 United States Senators signed a letter to President Bush asking him to assist Turkey to abandon its oppressive policies. This type of result did not just happen. With the guidance of Archbishop Demetrios, the Metropolitans and Hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne in the United States and the hundreds of priests and our beloved parishes this monumental feat was accomplished with unprecedented geographic, political and spiritual support. Moreover, 42 of 50 members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, an incredible supermajority of 84% sent a letter to Turkey Prime Minister Erdogan calling on him to end all restrictions on the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. We are now in the midst of a ground swell among all the Orthodox churches in America aimed at the United States House of Representatives, to repeat there what we did in the Senate. And we have targeted all 50 State Legislatures to pass religious freedom resolutions on behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as well. Our Diplomatic initiatives continue at the State Department and at the European Union and significant action is currently being taken by the Archon Legal Committee in alliance with the European Center of Law and Justice. Several weeks ago we made our third presentation at Europe's largest human rights conference in Warsaw, Poland once again exposing Turkey's huge religious freedom deficit to the 55 member nations. The Archons of America, the sons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate are men of deeds, of action of commitment.
It is the personal ministry of each Archon to provide his time, talent and resources to serve the Holy Mother Church at this time in its history, at this time when it has been pushed to the precipice of extinction. Let it be known throughout the world that His All Holiness is not alone in the struggle for religious freedom and survival of the Apostolic See of St. Andrew. Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s Archons in America stand side by side with the Exarch and the Faithful in America fighting to end religious persecution and prejudice and we will not give up until that goal is accomplished.
As I conclude my remarks, please allow me the opportunity to thank a number of individuals without whose Archon Stewardship, the Order could not function. National Vice Commander Nicholas J. Bouras has underwritten our Banquet, for the 9th time and has supported the mission of the Order with great beneficence. To this evening’s Chairmen Archons Kosta Vellios, who is also responsible for the beautiful floral arrangements and décor and Ted Demetriou and their committee and to our outstanding Treasurer Jim Fountas and Secretary John Halecky, Jr., we congratulate and thank you. To our staff Demetria Greenwood and Elpida Poumprou and for the efforts of Presvytera Xanthi Karloutsos we express our appreciation.
To all those present this evening in tribute to His Eminence, our Second Underwriter, Michael and Mary Jaharis, the many countless sponsors, please know that the monies you have contributed will be used to secure the religious freedom of our beloved Mother Church.
To His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, our Spiritual Advisor, Fr. Alex Karloutsos and my beloved wife Maria and our children John and Starla, and Anthony and Elizabeth, I offer my heartfelt gratitude.
Allow me now to offer words of tribute to our world-wide spiritual Father, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, as we celebrate with His All Holiness on the 16th anniversary of his election as the Archbishop of Constantinople, New Rome and Ecumenical Patriarch. Axios! Axios! Axios!