On Tuesday, July 16, 2019, the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle held a dinner in honor of Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, with a special guest in attendance, His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos III of Jerusalem. The dinner was held in Washington during the U.S. State Department Religious Freedom Ministerial Week.
The timing and location of this dinner was particularly important in light of the fact that the persecution of Christians worldwide continues to escalate, and is now as widespread as it is unnoticed.
In addition to Archbishop Elpidophoros and Patriarch Theophilos, in attendance were His Eminence Archbishop Yevstratty, Ukrainian Orthodox Archbishop of Chernihiv; Fr. Alex Karloutsos, Order of St. Andrew Spiritual Advisor and Vicar General of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese; Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL); members of the Trump Administration; and members of the diplomatic corps, as well as numerous Archons and other distinguished guests.
Representing the Order of AHEPA was its newly elected Supreme President Archon George Horiates and Supreme Treasurer Archon Savas Tsivicos, who is also the Honorary Chair of the Cyprus Children’s Fund. AHEPA Executive Director Archon Basil Mossaides was also present.
Representing the American Hellenic Institute was its Executive Director Archon Nick Larigakis. The Hellenic Initiative was represented by Archon George Stamas, its president, and the National Hellenic Society by its Executive Director, Art Dimopoulos. Representing the American Hellenic Leadership Council was its Executive Director, Endy Zemenides. The Hellenic American Women’s Council was represented by its cofounder Theodora Hancock, and the National Coordinated Effort of Hellenes by Archon Andy Manatos. The Western Policy Center was represented by Archon John Sitilides.
His Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros addressed His Beatitude Patriarch Theophilos, saying: “Your Beatitude, on behalf of all those assembled, please accept our profound respects, love, and appreciation for the role that you play in the protection – not only of the Orthodox Christians of the Holy Land and Jordan, but of all those who bear the Name of Christ throughout the Middle East.”
Archbishop Elpidophoros also noted: “This week, we are participating in this ‘Ministerial to Advance Religious Freedom.’ A thousand participants from the world over have gathered here in the Nation’s Capital to advance the cause of religious freedom for every human person, and we all know how much the esteemed Order of Saint Andrew has done in this regard. It is significant to note that the opening of the Ministerial took place at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, and the closing will be at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In the former we remember those who perished from an ethnic and religious hatred; in the latter we commemorate those in our own land who endured the inhumanity of slavery and subsequent racial discrimination. Although nearly every people of the world has suffered oppression, hatred, and even genocide at one time or another, it is our fervent pledge that we will never stand for such to happen anywhere again.”
The Archbishop added: “Therefore, we must see our goals for the Diaspora and for our all our Orthodox Christian Homelands in this bright and shining light – the light of liberty of conscience and freedom of worship. Whether it be in Constantinople or Jerusalem, in Greece or Ukraine, in Cyprus or Egypt, in Syria or Israel – our duty is to speak truth to power with love and with authority, even as the Lord spoke the Message of the Kingdom during His earthly ministry.”
Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis, National Commander of the Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, stated: “How appropriate it is for the Exarch of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, which has been the victim of religious persecution for centuries, to participate and speak at this ministerial, having served the Mother Church for over 25 years and who has witnessed first-hand the Martyria of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew.”
Dr. Limberakis praised Archbishop Elpidophoros’ tireless work for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Church in general, noting in particular his efforts on behalf of Autocephaly for the Orthodox Church in Ukraine: “His clarion voice in the magnificent book he authored in advocacy of Ukrainian Autocephaly which supported the brilliant and just decision of His All-Holiness was a tour de force… And yes, Ukrainian Autocephaly is a statement in support of Religious Freedom!”
Dr. Limberakis added: “We are especially honored this evening with the presence of His Beatitude Theophilos III, the Patriarch of Jerusalem where the very birthplace of Christianity is being threatened with the complete asphyxiation of the Christian Community.”
Explaining the urgency of the Ministerial, Dr. Limberakis said: “Whether you look at the Middle East, or Africa, or Asia, the countries of Syria, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt, Turkey, Yemen, China, Pakistan, India… it’s horrific that Christians are persecuted globally. According to our own State Department, Christians face persecution in more than 60 countries around the world, that’s more than one out of every three countries in existence today. Stated another way, although Christians comprise only 30% of the world’s population, 80 percent of all acts of religious discrimination are directed at Christians.” He also said that “the Order of St. Andrew commends President Trump, Secretary Pompeo and Ambassador for International Religious Freedom Brownback for organizing this Ministerial in which over 1000 individuals representing 130 countries are participating to focus attention on religious persecution and deliberating on the ways and means this evil can be contained and ultimately overcome.”