NEW YORK – Still basking in the glow of the ground blessing for the St. Nicholas shrine at Ground Zero at noon – Archbishop Demetrios of America called it a great day from Alpha to Omega – clergy, laity and friends of the Greek Orthodox Church gathered at the New York Hilton for the banquet of the Order of St. Andrew, the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, on October 18.
The annual dinner, as always a tasteful affair, is the occasion for the presentation on the Athenagoras Human Rights Award. This year’s recipient was distinguished attorney Jan Alan Sekulow, founder of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), which TIME magazine called “the leading advocacy group for religious freedom.”
The night before, the Archons presented the Nicholas J. Bouras Award for extraordinary Archon Stewardship award to Christopher Stratakis, Esq.
Sekulow was introduced by Dr. Anthony Limberakis, National Commander of the Archons. A brief tribute video was also screened and the banquet program revealed that “…on innumerable occasions, he has supported and championed the cause of the Orthodox Christian world by his endeavors on behalf of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and the Patriarchate of Jerusalem.”
The irrepressible Dr. Limberakis put the event in the context of the recent deepening of relations between the Greek and Jewish-American community by noting their many common values, such as devotion to family and education. He reminded that Greek and Jewish-Americans are ranked first and second respectfully among immigrant groups in education. He added that the rankings are reversed for income, but noted to laughter, “that’s only because they are based on reported income.”
Sekulow began his acceptance speech by thanking his family and his law partners “who are like my own brothers.” He then read a 1969 statement by Patriarch Athenagoras about the turmoil in the world that puts our common values to the test that remains only too appropriate today.
He was humbled by the awards, he said, just as he felt when he argued the first of the 12 cases – all of which he has won – before the U.S. Supreme Court as the grandson of an immigrant who fled religious persecution in Russia in 1914.
His Eminence concluded the evening with an Archiepiscopal Exhortation, and referred to the importance and splendor of the whole day. He emphasized the importance of the efforts of the Archons, which he said “are even more worthy of recognition” given the often frustrating responses of the Government of Turkey.
Archbishop Demetrios declared that Sekulow’s achievements are a tribute not only to his brilliance as a lawyer, but to his dedication to Truth and Justice.
The guests were welcomed by John Halecky, National Secretary of the Archons and Archon John Zavitsanos served as the evening’s MC and acknowledged the dignitaries and the diplomatic corps. Dr. Limberakis thanked all who fight for the causes championed by the Archons, especially the Order of AHEPA, represented by Philip Frangos, its Supreme President, “which support the Ecumenical Patriarchate with such energy.”
Dr. Limberakis expressed special gratitude from to Fr. Alex Karloutsos, Protopresbyter of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, “who works indefatigably on both sides of the Atlantic and today on both ends of Manhattan,” referring the St. Nicholas event. Dr. Limberakis also acknowledged the work of Presbytera Xanthi Karloutsos, whom he said avoids outside the spotlight, and asked to stand up to receive appreciative applause.
John Metaxas, archon and CBS News correspondent, welcomed the guests and introduced the dais. The Invocation was offered by Archbishop Demetrios of America assisted by Fr. John Vlahos, Dean of Holy Trinity Cathedral, who was the first to refer to the ground blessing and it’s symbolizing of the triumph of good over evil when he closed his prayer by invoking St. Paul: “If God is for us, who can be against us?”
The musical entertainment was provided by Grigoris Maninakis accompanied by Glafkos Kontemeniotis on piano.
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