BOSTON – Dr. Anthony Liberakis, National Commander of the Order of Saint Andrew, the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America, spoke to The National Herald about the Apostolic Visit of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew to His Ecclesiastical Eparchy, the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, and to the United States, saying that “a visit from our worldwide Spiritual Father is absolutely essential at this time.”
The entire interview follows:
The National Herald: Archon Limberakis, what are your thoughts regarding the Apostolic Visit of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew?
Archon Dr. Anthony Limberakis: It has been 12 years since His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew visited the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, the most important Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne, so a visit from our worldwide Spiritual Father is absolutely essential at this time. There is no substitution for his personal presence in America to offer the love, spiritual inspiration, and guidance that only an Ecumenical Patriarch can give as a direct successor of St. Andrew, the very first Apostle of Jesus Christ. His historic 30-year tenure as Ecumenical Patriarch, the longest-serving in history, has afforded His All-Holiness innumerable interactions and experiences among all Orthodox faithful throughout the world. It is with these ‘χαρίσματα’, both God-given and empirically acquired, that he is best able to guide the Faithful in America.
TNH: What does his visit mean to our Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America?
AL: This Visit, his third in his Thirty-Year Patriarchy, is a reminder that the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America is a unified Eparchy of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. Especially as we prepare to receive a new Charter from the Mother Church, as a dutiful Daughter Church, we are called to renew our historical legacy and sense of connection with the Great Church of Christ.
TNH: How is the Order of St. Andrew preparing to receive the Patriarch?
AL: It will be an extraordinary opportunity for all the Faithful and Archons to see the ‘diakonia’ of His All-Holiness as he visits local communities, Washington, DC, and of course the Archdiocese in New York City. There will be many dignitaries who will participate in the Archon Weekend Activities, including the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew Foundation Founders Dinner with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who visited the Phanar last November before the close of his tenure. We will also host the 2021 Athenagoras Human Rights Award Banquet. The black-tie gala is the Archon’s premier annual event and fundraiser which begins with a one-hour cocktail reception, followed by the introduction of the dais and the presentation of the 2021 Athenagoras Human Rights Award by His All-Holiness to three renowned scientists: Albert Bourla, DVM, PhD of Pfizer; Uğur Şahin, MD, PhD of BioNTech; and George D. Yancopoulos, MD, PhD of Regeneron, whose extraordinary efforts led to worldwide COVID-19 vaccines and therapeutics saving millions of lives. The Hon. Alex M. Azar II, former U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, will serve as master of ceremonies.
TNH: When did you first meet His All Holiness?
AL: I first met our Ecumenical Patriarch in 1984 when my wife Maria and I accompanied my in-laws, the late National Commander Dr. Anthony Borden and my mother-in-law Lillian, on an Archon Pilgrimage to the Phanar, meeting with then Ecumenical Patriarch Dimitrios. At that time, Patriarch Bartholomew was the Metropolitan of Philadelphia and Director of the Patriarchal Office and I can tell you that I was never the same after. He is an extraordinary Hierarch and human being, and anyone who has ever spent even a few moments with him will say the same.
TNH: What does his visit mean to our country, the United States?
AL: I think it is very important to note that His All-Holiness is well known to President Biden and really to all high-level officials of our government. Let us not forget that he has been Ecumenical Patriarch for thirty years! The longest serving Primate of the Ecumenical Throne in history! In these three decades, His All-Holiness has interacted with the American leadership at all levels, both in the Congress and the Executive Branch. Remember, that in 1997, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in the same year as Mother Theresa. We must remember that although there are relatively few Orthodox Christians in the United States in respect to the whole population, we are the second largest Christian grouping in the world. And His All-Holiness occupies the First Throne of all Orthodoxy. This has tremendous significance for America, which seeks a global perspective, one that His All-Holiness possesses in wisdom and humility.
TNH: What does it mean that the Archdiocese is an ecclesiastical Eparchy of the Ecumenical Throne?
AL: As I said before, being an Eparchy means that we are a daughter of our Mother Church, being of one blood and one family. Here in the United States, a proud country of a relatively short history, it is easy to get carried away by the enormous success of America as a world power. Remember, it is only the Centenary of our Archdiocese next year – a grand accomplishment to be sure, but it pales in the light of the seventeen-hundred-year history of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Queen of Cities, Constantinople. Therefore, we must remain humble and appreciative of the wellspring of our Orthodox Faith, and understand that all our ecclesiastical life issues forth from the Mother Church, which has birthed us through blood and water.