New York, NY - The Hon. Joseph Biden, Vice President of the United States, will receive this year's Athenagoras Human Rights Award presented by the Order of Saint Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, at the organization's annual banquet Saturday, Oct. 17, at the New York Hilton Hotel in New York City.
In December 2011, Biden became the first sitting Vice President of the United States to visit His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Phanar. Three years later, November 2014, the Vice President returned for a second official visit to the Ecumenical Patriarchate.
As a strong advocate for religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Biden made the following remarks at the Clergy-Laity Congress in Philadelphia: "The issue that I would like to mention tonight, and one about which I am equally optimistic, is religious freedom and the right of the Greek Orthodox Church to control its destiny free of the influence of any government – of any government at all. The right to decide who the Patriarch is, is not the business of any State to determine. Period. Period. The right to reopen Halki Seminary is basic. And the protection of the holy places and the heritage sites in Turkey is absolutely necessary. It is basic. It is the essence of religious freedom."
Archbishop Demetrios responded to the news of the Award as follows, "Vice President Biden has shown again and again his commitment to the Ecumenical Patriarchate and it's free and unhampered exercise of its spiritual mission. His two visits to the Phanar as the only sitting Vice President of the United States speak volumes about his love of liberty, sense of justice and true friendship with His All-Holiness."
National Commander Dr. Anthony J. Limberakis added, "We are honored to bestow the Athenagoras Human Rights Award on this exemplary leader, whose love of freedom and human rights has borne such witness for the Mother Church and the rights of all oppressed people."
Past recipients of the award have included Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H. W. Bush, Mother Teresa, Elie Wiesel and Mikhail Gorbachev.
The Award is named in memory of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, who served in that capacity from 1948 until his death in 1972. Prior to his selection as Ecumenical Patriarch, Athenagoras served as Archbishop of North and South America.
Established in 1986, the Athenagoras Human Rights Award is presented annually at the Order of Saint Andrew's grand banquet to a person or organization, which has consistently exemplified by action, purpose and dedication concern for the basic rights and religious freedom of all people. Visit archons.org/AthenagorasAward