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Remarks of National Commander Dr. Limberakis at the Eleftheria Award Dinner, Philadelphia

The following remarks were offered at the Eleftheria Award Dinner in Philadelphia, PA on April 6, 2024 by National Commander Anthony J. Limberakis, MD. The Federation of Hellenic-American Societies of Philadelphia and the Greater Delaware Valley honored Dr. Limberakis with the Award.

Your Eminence Metropolitan Apostolos of New Jersey and respected Clergy

Parade Grand Marshal Archon Philip Christopher,

Madam President Georgia Chletcos and Archon John Vasiliou and Mr. Karapalides 

Her Excellency Ekaterini Nassika, Ambassador of the Hellenic Republic to the United States and members of the Diplomatic Corps

Congressman Donald Norcross of New Jersey’s nearby First Congressional District, 

Members of the Federation of Hellenic-American Societies of Philadelphia & the Greater Delaware Valley,

My esteemed friends of AHEPA, Supreme President Archon Savas Tsivicos and Board Chair Archon Nicholas Karacostas, and Archon Basil Mossaidis 

Beloved Archons and Friends,

It is my great honor to accept the Eleftheria Medal tonight. I do so on behalf of every Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the United States, as each and every Archon works tirelessly for the protection and freedom of our Holy Mother Church of Constantinople. Consequently, receiving a medal of liberty is particularly gratifying for me as National Commander of the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It constitutes a recognition from the Federation of Hellenic-American Societies of Philadelphia and the Greater Delaware Valley of our efforts in defense of the Sacred Center of our Holy Faith. And your recognition is most gratefully received.

It is also particularly fitting that this Eleftheria Medal would be awarded in the great city of Philadelphia. This city is the home of the Liberty Bell and the birthplace of ελευθερία for the United States of America. Philadelphia is the City of Freedom, and therefore in a certain sense, Philadelphia is itself a Greek city, right down to its very name, for the cities of Greece pioneered freedom and democracy from the time of Pericles onward.

Of course, we know that Greek cities did not always enjoy the fruits of freedom and democracy. They labored under the Ottoman yoke for four hundred years, as the four hundred pleats of the Evzones’ Foustanella remind us. But throughout those long centuries of oppression, the Hellenic spirit was never broken. The love for freedom was never extinguished. The indomitable Greek mind continued to work, and the indestructible Greek heart continued to beat. When they began to come to the new world, Greek Americans quickly became the most educated and successful immigrants in this country’s history. 

That was no surprise. The Greek immigrants to this land carried with them the DNA of the pioneers of freedom and democracy. Of Pericles and the Archons of ancient Athens, who included Solon, Themistocles, and Aristides the Just. Of Constantine the Great, the first Christian Roman Emperor, who established his great city, Constantinople, as the new capital of the Empire. Of the Emperor Justinian, whose far-seeing legal code served as a profound inspiration for John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. It was through such towering figures and so many more that ελευθερία came to this land.

In 1821, the Greeks declared “Eλευθερία ή θάνατος!” (Liberty or death!). This is strongly reminiscent of Patrick Henry’s famous statement, “Give me liberty or give me death,” which in 1776 had become a rallying cry of the American revolutionaries. 

Greek Americans for two centuries now have carried on in this illustrious tradition. Indeed, the Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate today are dedicated to protecting and defending the holy center of our Greek Orthodox Faith, the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. His Eminence Metropolitan Apostolos and many others here present can attest to the present deprivation of the religious freedom of His All-Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. 

It is a supreme irony: with tremendous vision and breathtaking courage, His All-Holiness stood against extraordinary pressure from the Moscow Patriarchate and its proxies, and granted freedom to the Orthodox Church in Ukraine with his Tomos of Autocephaly in January 2019. Yet even as he grants freedom to others, His All-Holiness is unable to enjoy it himself. The restrictions that the Turkish government has placed upon the Ecumenical Patriarchate are the ongoing concern of the Archons. We strive in every arena possible to restore the freedom of our beloved and most holy Mother Church, so as to enable it to exercise its worldwide sacred mission in perpetuity, without hindrance.  

Remember also: the celebration of Greek Independence Day falls on the Feast Day of the Annunciation of the Theotokos. This is not a coincidence. The Hellenic freedom fighters specifically chose that day in order beseech the blessings of the Panagia upon their efforts. And likewise today, our struggle for religious freedom arises out of our commitment to our holy Orthodox Faith. It is God who gives freedom; it is man who hinders it. Let us stand on the side of the Lord and His All-Holy Mother.

And so it is above all with a strong sense of responsibility that I accept the Eleftheria Medal tonight. The Archons are dedicated to protecting the future of faith, and to securing the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and of all people worldwide. In this great and, indeed, holy struggle, there is a great deal more that needs to be done. I am gratified that the Federation of Hellenic-American Societies of Philadelphia and the Greater Delaware Valley has recognized this, and that you stand with us in this most honorable of endeavors.

We are the children and heirs of those who fought to secure Greek independence 203 years ago. Let us prove worthy of our forefathers and foremothers, and join them in the struggle for freedom. In this fallen world, that struggle is never fully won, but there is nothing greater, nothing more important, nothing more noble for which we can and must dedicate our lives. Thank you for this medal, and above all, thank you for your commitment to freedom.

Zito i Ellas! Ζήτω η Ελλάδα!

God Bless America!

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