The Athenagoras Human Rights Award

History behind the award

In 1986 the National Council of the Order of St. Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate in America established The Athenagoras Human Rights Award. The Award is presented every year at the Annual Banquet of the Order 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.

The Award was named after one of the Great Church Leaders of the 20th Century, the late Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Athenagoras I.

Athenagoras was born on March 25, 1886, in the small village Vassilikon in the district Pogonion, a province of Epirus in north western Greece. He rose through the clerical ranks and served as Archbishop of the Greek Orthodox Church of North and South America from 1931 to 1948. On November 1, 1948, he was elected to the high office of Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople by the Holy Synod of the most venerable Orthodox See.

In his capacities, as Archbishop and then as Ecumenical Patriarch, he cultivated a new era of recognition and prestige for the Orthodox Christian Church on an international and ecumenical level. Having established closer contacts with sister churches of Orthodoxy, with leaders of other Christian Churches and with other Faiths and denominations, his name became synonymous with love for all peoples of the earth. He lived to see the Church of Constantinople almost totally destroyed September 1955 during the pogrom and anti-Greek riots by the Turkish mobs. He was the first Ecumenical Patriarch to open the road for a dialogue with the Roman Catholic Church after the schism of 1054 between the two Churches. He met Pope Paul VI on January 4-5, 1964 in Jerusalem, to reconcile and pray together for peace, love and respect between the two Apostolic Churches.