NEW YORK – The Order of St. Andrew, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate will present this year’s Athenagoras Human Rights Award to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at this year’s banquet in New York City on October 15, the Order announced.
“Governor Cuomo, a strong advocate for religious freedom for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, was the instrumental person in the process of securing an agreement with the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey regarding the rebuilding and resurrection of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine at the World Trade Center, which was destroyed in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001,” announced the Order.
National Commander Dr. Anthony Limberakis noted that “for Christians and non-Christians the world over, Hagia Sophia in modern-day Istanbul is one of the most magnificent edifices in the world. Now, with the building of the Saint Nicholas National Shrine at the World Trade Center, the Western Hemisphere will possess its own little “Hagia Sophia” as a true witness to our Greek Orthodox Faith and our Holy Mother Church of Constantinople, as well as a symbol of religious freedom whose luminance will be seen the world over. We owe this to Governor Cuomo who is most worthy to receive the Athenagoras Human Rights Award.”
The Order noted Gov. Cuomo’s remarks regarding the perseverance of the Greek Orthodox Church and the Greek community as a whole, in 2012, regarding the struggle to have the St. Nicholas Church rebuilt at Ground Zero. Cuomo had said: “Let me say this on the Church of St. Nicholas though, I applaud you for what you did — the Archbishop has been very kind, (but) I am only doing what I am supposed to be doing. I am doing my job and what I was elected to do. But the fight that you waged for St. Nicholas Church, that went over a decade is remarkable. You faced every obstacle you were told ‘no’, time after time, after time. You fought the bureaucracy numerous governors, numerous heads of the Port Authority and you wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer and you kept coming back and kept coming back… and it is such a beautiful story of the Greek community. Organizing, mobilizing, refusing to give up, refusing to loose. And, what was most beautiful, it wasn’t for you, it wasn’t about a monetary gain, it wasn’t because someone was going to be advanced, it was the fundamental belief of the Greek community, which is about community and faith and philanthropy.”
The Award is named in memory of Ecumenical Patriarch Athenagoras, who served in that capacity from 1948 until his death in 1972. Established in 1986, it is presented annually “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 Order described.