|On behalf of the Order, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America together with National Commander Anthony J. Limberakis, MD and officers John Halecky, James Fountas and Alex Pritsos presented Ambassador Vassilis Kaskarelis with a commemorative plaque in recognition of his support of religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and for being honored as "Diplomat of the Year." (Photo by D. Panagos)
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His Excellency Vassilis Kaskarelis, Ambassador of Greece to the United States was honored for his extraordinary support of religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate by the Order of Saint Andrew. The event was held on Thursday, February 17, 2011, at the Carlyle Hotel in New York and hosted by National Vice Commander Nicholas J. Bouras.
National Commander Anthony J. Limberakis, MD, delivered introductory remarks followed by a toast offered by Archon Andrew E. Manatos.
National Commander Limberakis highlighted the Ambassador’s diplomatic career, beginning with his assignment in Turkey serving as a key negotiator in confidence building measures between Greece and Turkey. Limberakis offered his gratitude for behind the scenes briefings that gave the Order of Saint Andrew a lay of the diplomatic land during their religious freedom missions abroad. He also thanked His Excellency for promoting the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate at every opportunity during his tenure as Ambassador to the European Union. “Truly, you have served the needs of the Great Church of Christ with the “shield of faith,” the “helmet of salvation” and the “sword of the Spirit,” in the words of St. Paul in his letter to the Ephesians, as we all seek religious freedom for the Holy and Great Mother Church of Constantinople.”
That evening, on behalf of the Order, His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios of America together with the National Commander and officers John Halecky, James Fountas and Alex Pritsos presented Ambassador Kaskarelis with a commemorative plaque, reading, “with profound gratitude and deep appreciation for his extraordinary support of religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate and in recognition for being honored as ‘Diplomat of the Year for 2011.’”
Following the presentation, the Ambassador thanked the Order and reflected on the importance of institution of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, saying, “It goes without saying that the Ecumenical Patriarchate is of profound importance to Orthodox believers everywhere. It is our common point of reference. It is the lighthouse that guides our journey.” His Excellency continued, “This Sacred institution has endured for more than seventeen centuries, always envisioning the future, evolving in accordance with the spiritual needs of its faithful, navigating the contemporary world.” His Excellency also commended the Archons on organizing their first-ever International Religious Freedom Conference held at the European Parliament in Brussels. He spoke about how he witnessed the Archons “diligence and dedication” in securing religious freedom rights for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, as he served as Ambassador to the European Union in Brussels.
The evening concluded with remarks offered by Archbishop Demetrios who commended the Ambassador’s firm position on religious freedom rights. His Eminence also said that “encouraging progress has been made” regarding the Ecumenical Patriarchate “due to the efforts of the Archons,” but, noting that several “unresolved issues” remain such as the recognition of the legal personality of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the right to “manage its affairs and property rights.”
Esteemed hierarchs, clergy and guests that evening, in addition to Archbishop Demetrios of America; His Grace Bishop Savas of Troas; His Grace Bishop Philotheos of Meloa; Archon Nicholas Karacostas, AHEPA supreme president; Mrs. Aphrodite Skeadas, president of the National Philoptochos Society; Archon Constantine Caras, chairman of Leadership 100; and Archon Peter Kikis, president of Faith Endowment.