Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Director of the White House Advance George Gigicos and Congressman Gus Bilirakis were honored by Archdiocese.
Washington, DC.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Photos: Dimitrios Panagos
“You helped save the Republican Party”, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus told the audience of the Greek American inaugural reception, in Washington, on Thursday January 19. Reince Priebus and two more Greek Americans, Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and George Gigicos, Deputy Assistant to the President and Director of the White House Advance, received by Archbishop Demetrios the Medal of Saint Paul, the highest honor of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America. All three are Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, of the Order of St Andrew the Apostle.
George Gigicos, was not able to make the event, since he was involved in the preparations for the inauguration; his parents Fr. Dean Gigicos and Presvytera Elaine received the medal on his behalf.
The Greek American inaugural reception, traditionally organized on the eve of the Presidential Inauguration, was sponsored by The Hellenic Initiative – and organization trying to assist Greece struggling with the crisis – and was held at St. Regis Hotel. Donations of $2,500 were suggested (in email messages sent by the organizers) for the benefit of the Inaugural Committee, on behalf of Reince Priebus. These donors attended later on a private dinner at the Metropolitan Club.
George Stamas, of The Hellenic Initiative, presented the program, while introductions of the honorees were made by Andrew Manatos, Michael Karloutsos and John Catsimatidis.
Many leaders and prominent members of the Greek-American Community were in attendance. Representing Greece were the Minister of Defense Panos Kamenos and the Minister of Digital Policy, Telecommunications and Media Nikos Pappas, who traveled to Washington for this event. It was the first time ever that Greek ministers attended such an event.
Both Reince Priebus and Congressman Bilirakis spoke about their deep connection with their orthodox faith and Hellenic heritage.
In his remarks, Reince Priebus recalled the meeting he had with Archbishop Demetrios and Rev. Alex Karloutsos in 2011, after he became Chairman of the RNC and thanked the Greek Orthodox Community for saving the Republican Party.
“I walked into this job when it was a catastrophe. The Greek Community, the Orthodox Community, starting with the Archbishop and father Alex, the Archons and John Catsimatidis who took me under his wing.. This group here is family. You helped save the Republican Party. You saved the GOP and allow the RNC to put a ground game and a data operation in place, so that Donald Trump – a person who I believe is going to be an incredible president – will be sworn-in tomorrow. You have not just saved our party but our country and bring freedom back”.
He said the integrity and the discipline of the Orthodox Church is something that everyone can learn from and helped him throughout his life.
“We are here because of God’s will. And we need to take the opportunity that God has given us and accomplish the goals that our great new president has talked about and make this country great again”, Priebus said.
He stressed that we want to put the concept of religious freedom, our Patriarch in Constantinople and the recognition of the struggle of the Orthodox Church, front and center in this White House.
“I would love to see the day that the President of the United States shows at the church in Constantinople.”
The new White House Chief of Staff explained that to recognize the oppression and the struggle is not just the symbol for the Orthodox Church, but the symbol for people of faith around the world.
“When you have Christian heads lying in the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, it’s no wonder why people across the world, here in America, the United Kingdome, throughout Europe – just wait for Germany next – people are tired, they want someone to fight for them.”
Reince Priebus underlined that people are hungry for something that’s real.
“Do you know what people are starving for in this country and in this world? They are starving for real.. They are tired of plasticized politicians, whether from Athens, or from Washington … Plasticized doesn’t work anymore, real does.”
Priebus described Donald Trump as a person of his word and promised to move forward with ObamaCare, Tax Reform and other things that the American people and the American workers are hungry for.
“If we become the party of the American worker and the people of skill, we will never lose another election again”, he said.
Archbishop Demetrios after bestowing the medals to the honorees said that the appointment of these Greek Orthodox faithful members in the new administration could be a catalyst for more involvement of the people in the community in the political field.
“It is about time that we show the dynamism of the Greek-Orthodox soul and mind and these appointments of Greek Orthodox people in the new administration is a catalyst,” he said and added: “The Greek Orthodox Church in America is going to be with you in prayer, in love, in care and with the absolute certainty, beyond optimism or pessimism, but with hope for better things to come.”
Archbishop Demetrios has attended the official ceremonies and the swearing in of the 45th President of the United States Donald J. Trump, from the Presidential platform at the U.S. Capitol. On Saturday, Jan. 21, Archbishop Demetrios participated in the National Prayer Service for the new President at Washington’s National Cathedral and read a biblical passage.