Greek Orthodox Stewards of America - March 6, 1999
The Attempt by Some Critics to Intimidate Eli Wiesel
and Embarrass Archdiocese and Archons Failed
On Saturday, February 28, 1999, in the grand ballroom of the New York Hilton Hotel, the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle, Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate held their annual Sunday of Orthodoxy banquet. Approximately 700 people were in attendance. On the dais were clergy and dignitaries, including His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon, New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman, United States Senator Charles Schumer of New York and the honoree of the evening, Professor Eli Wiesel. The Archons had chosen Professor Wiesel as the 1999 recipient of the Athenagoras Award for Human Rights. Professor Wiesel, a Holocaust victim, is considered one of the greatest humanitarians of this century. His efforts to defend human rights and peace throughout the world have earned him (1) the Presidential Medal of Freedom, (2) the United States Congressional Gold Medal, (3) the Medal of Liberty Award, (4) the rank of Grand Officer in the French Legion of Honor, (5) the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize and (6) more than ninety honorary degrees from institutions of higher learning.
After an evening of speeches, it was time for Professor Wiesel to be presented the award and to make some remarks. What occurred next was an indictment of some critics of the Archdiocese and the tactics they employ. Early in his acceptance speech, Professor Wiesel stated the following:
"We have much in common [(i.e., the Greek Orthodox community and the Jewish community)]. . . . And then both of us have internal problems. I thought that we Jews have problems. I didn't realize that other people too have problems.
Surely you know that months ago, many months ago when I received the letter asking me to come and of course to receive your very important gesture in honor, I said yes for very simple reasons. True, I worked. I tried to work to bring together the Jewish community with Catholics, Protestants of all denominations and I realized that I have never done anything for you and for us. I didn't know much about you. So I said, of course I accept. Then I was in France and Europe the last two weeks and I began getting faxes. Terrible faxes, saying, please don't go there. Don't go there. Please decline. Now really, I said to at least one of them, come on. Do you think that I as a Jew should interfere in a Christian community and say what to do and what not to do? It would be arrogance. . . . There is absolutely no way for me not to be with you tonight. Because again you mention it, that it's true your Eminence. The key word is respect. .... Respect is a very heavy duty. But on the other hand it's the only possibility for human beings to live together, is to have respect for one another. And I respect you. I know again, I know very well I know my history, but it's history and we remember it. But I also know that today we must live together."
What precipitated these comments was that certain critics of the Archdiocese wanted to destroy the evening and embarrass the Archdiocese and Archons by attempting to intimidate Professor Wiesel into not accepting the award. They faxed him over 200 pages filled with hateful, cruel, disparaging remarks about the Greek Orthodox Church and its clergy, stating among other things, that they are anti-Semetic. These hateful and despicable acts by some Archdiocese critics are unacceptable and cannot be tolerated. They demonstrate that some of them are engaged in a reckless, "scorched earth" policy aimed at (1) embarrassing the Church, (2) tarnishing its standing in this country and the rest of the world and (3) tearing it apart.
The conclusion that must be drawn from the "Professor Wiesel" incident is that at least some of the Archdiocese's critics are mean spirited intimidators who will stoop to anything to advance their agendas, regardless of consequence. Every Greek Orthodox Christian should say "enough is enough" and speak out against these tactics. We should accept Professor Wiesel's advice about "respect" and "living together." We should start by refraining from attacking His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew and his exarch, His Eminence Archbishop Spyridon. If we do not, we will invite more shameful incidents like that involving Professor Wiesel, and we will all lose.
[ Greek Orthodox Stewards of America
March 6, 1999 ]