U.S. President preferred to joke with Archbishop Dimitrios, instead of sticking to his promises on the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Cyprus and Macedonia
Washington, D.C. By Apostolis Zoupaniotis
The US special assistance in resolving chronic injustices in the case of the religious freedom of the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, Cyprus issue and the case of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Archbishop Demetrios of America asked of President Obama.
Archbishop Demetrios was speaking during a commemoration celebration of the 188th anniversary of Greek independence held at the White Houseʼs East Room. In his address, Archbishop Demetrios asked for the assistance of US President Barack Obama “in resolving chronic injustices related to issues of religious freedom, human rights, peaceful coexistence, democratic rule of law, and the pursuit of happiness”.
He stressed that he was specifically referring to three cases: “First, the case of the religious freedom of our Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople. This means the free and unfettered exercise of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew’s purely spiritual mission of leading the Orthodox Christians’ world of over a quarter of a billion people; furthermore, his possibility to proceed freely and effectively in his pioneering work for the environment and in his passionate promotion of inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue”.
Second, he added, “the case of the well-known issue of the Republic of Cyprus; and third, the case of the name of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia”.
Archbishop Demetrios expressed the belief that President Obama, as new Alexander the Great, would be able to cut the Gordian Knot of these unresolved issues, and by so doing, enhance peace and reconciliation among the peoples included and involved.
Furthermore, he referred to the history of “unbreakable ties and sincere friendship between the United States and Greece”.
President Barack Obama didnʼt comment on the substance of Demetriosʼ requests, but he made a joke saying: “Well, what a great honor. I will tell Michelle that I’ve been compared to Alexander the Great. I will see whether that gets me a little more respect at home. She knows she’s still the boss”.
Obama spoke about the “common ideals and common struggles” of the two countries and thanked the Greek-American community for its contribution to American society, referring to his Greek-American friends and supporters in Chicago and events held to commemorate the March 25th anniversary by the Greek community of that city.
He also referred to the “strong bonds” between Greece and the United States and welcomed Greeks and Greek-Americans to the White House, stressing that cooperation between the two countries will continue in the coming years.
He added, “It is a great honor to be here with His Eminence as we mark the 10th anniversary since he became Archbishop. And it is a privilege to join all of you as we celebrate the contributions of Greece and those of Greek heritage to this country and to the world”.
On his part, US Vice President Joe Biden said that “Greece and America share common values, common goals, a common philosophical tradition going back to the great scholars of ancient Greece”.
Vice-president Biden referred to the assistance he had received from the Greek-American community when he was first elected to Congress nearly 40 years earlier and underlined the bonds and common values of the two peoples, noting that the two countries “originate from the same historic DNA,” while he emphasised his long-term relationship with Archbishop Demetrios, describing him as a “friend”.
Archbishop Demetrios offered to President Obama a memorabilia from “the famous Barbary War in Tripoli, Libya, North Africa that involved the newly established Marine Corps in April 1805, a detachment under the command of Lieutenant O’Bannon, consisting of six American Marines, a company of 24 commoners, and another 26 Greeks with their own proper officers engaged the enemy. Seven of these Greeks fell in that battle on African soil, under the Marines and in defense of the American flag in 1805”. The memorabilia it is a copy from the Archives of the Marines, including most of the names of the Greeks engaged in that war.
At the conclusion of the program President Obama and the Vice-President greeted many of the attendees and the reception continued in a festive atmosphere. The Archdiocesan Metropolitan Youth Choir performed for the second year at the White House event, songs related to the occasion. President Obama asked to see the children of the choir greeted them warmly and was photographed with them.
Among those present were Greek Justice Minister Nikos Dendias, the Greek Ambassador to the Washington Alexandros Mallias, Cyprus’s Ambassador to Washington Andreas Kakouris and the U.S. Ambassador to Athens Daniel Speckhard, more than 35 members of U.S. Congress, Illinois State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias and many Greek American elected officials as well as leaders of major Greek American national organizations.
Prior to the event Archbishop Demetrios held a 15minute long private meeting with President Obama and Vice President Biden during which they discussed the issues of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Cyprus and the name issue with Skopje.
Obama told Dimitrios that he would meet Paatriarch Bartholomew in Istanbul on April 7 during a visit to Turkey and as part of wider talks with leaders of many faiths. However, the US president is also due to hold a one-on-one meeting with the patriarch in the White House on November 3.
If Obama wonʼt change his plans he will be the first U.S. president that didnʼt visit the Fanar while in Istanbul.
The morning of March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, Archbishop Demetrios presided at the Divine Liturgy in Washingtonʼs St. Sophia Cathedral, followed by the service of Doxology. In the evening and following the White House event he attended the reception hosted by the Ambassador of Greece to the United States Alexandros Mallias at the Greek Embassy. Minister of Justice Nikolaos Dendias represented the Greek Government at these events.