New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Greek Orthodox Archdiocese’s main event in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Greek Revolution took place at the Holy Trinity Cathedral and it embraced the political leadership of Greece and Cyprus and the United States, along with political and community leaders of the Greek American Community. At the same time it offered to the approximately 100 people who physically attended the event and the tens of thousands that watched it through the social media, ERT World and Ant1-Sat, a sample of fine Greek Culture and a taste of Greek History.
The event followed a doxology, presided by Archbishop Elpidophoros of America.
Greetings at the event were offered by the Prime Minister of Greece Kyriakos Mitsotakis, main opposition leader Alexis Tsipras, President of the Republic of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades, the President of the United States Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, Greek American public officials, Archdiocesan Council Vice President John Catsimatidis, AHEPA Supreme President George Horiates and PFEIZER CEO Albert Bourlas.
Among the attendees were the Ambassador of Greece to the U.S. Alexandra Papadopoulou and Consul General of Cyprus in New York Alexis Faedonos,
The program – presented by the ABC anchorman George Stefanopoulos –
– provided historic video narrated by award-winning actor Dennis Boutsikaris and musical presentations by Karolina Pilou, Principal Artist at The Metropolitan Opera of New York, Stefanos Koroneos, International Baritone and Artistic Director of Teatro Grattacielo, The New York Notables Trio, and the Archdiocesan Byzantine Choir.
The full text of Archbishop Elpidophoros’ remarks is as follows:
Today is the Chapter-Head of our Salvation! The source, the wellspring, the beginning of our true freedom as human beings.
The Heroes of 1821 could have chosen no better Day to announce their Revolution, the rising up that led to the restoration of the Greek People as a Nation. For the Feast of the Annunciation is is the ultimate Day of Liberation for all Humanity.
Those immortal Greeks who rose up on March 25th, knew in their souls what Pericles spoke of five hundred years before the Annunciation – that freedom was happiness, and courage was freedom.
But it is the responsibility of every generation to secure its own liberty of conscience, of practice, and of life. Each, in their turn, must find the courage within, to bring about liberty without.
That is why this Bicentennial of 1821 speaks with such profundity to us, because we hear the echo of those valiant souls who gave their last full measure. We know that it was their sacrifice that purchased redemption for our forbears, and for us as well.
This celebration and Doxology today must be more than a mere commemoration of their sacrifice. It must be a challenge to all of us. How will we honor that oblation of life that purchased our liberty? What can, and what will, we do? To ensure that generations, yet to be born, will bask in the bright light of freedom?
Fellow Greeks and Philhellenes:
The laurels of our ancestors are not withered. They are fresh and green and full of life. But only if we make them so.
Just as the young Virgin gave her assent to the will of God – she said “Yes!” We must also say a resounding “Yes!” to our rightful inheritance as Greeks.
“Yes” to democracy and the democratic ideal Greece gave to the world. And yes, we we must safeguard it each and every day.
We must stand for the rights of the oppressed, the minority voices, for those who have been historically disenfranchised. The blood of the Heroes of 1821 will cry from the ground, even as did the blood of the innocent Abel, if we do not defend the rights of all.
Therefore, with pride in our hearts and with joy on our faces, let us lovingly offer our thanks to the Immortal Heroes of 1821.
Let us recommit our faithfulness to our Homeland of Greece, and rededicate our lives to the cause of freedom and self-actualization for all human beings.
Thus, we shall honor those who came before us in the freedom of courage, and offer to those who will come after us, the happiness of freedom.
Ζήτω ἡ Ἑλλάς. Ζήτω τὸ Ἑλληνικὸ Ἔθνος.
As we honour and commemorate this historic milestone, Cyprus, still being under Turkish military occupation, recalls the Revolution’s ideas of freedom and independence in our tireless efforts to reach a comprehensive and lasting settlement on the Cyprus problem, the President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades said, in a pre-recorded message that was presented during the main event of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, for the Bicentennial of the Greek Revolution.
“The 1821 struggle for Independence constitutes one of the most important chapters in the Greek modern history, and the bicentennial is a fitting occasion to honour the sacrifices of its people. Heroic sacrifices based on the vision of uniting and freeing Greece from the slavery, oppression and tyranny they were suffering due to the Ottoman rule,” President Anastasiades said.
He pointed out that fighting with courage and heroism, the Greeks succeeded to establish their own independent state, which proved a milestone in both European and world history as it inspired other nations to arise in pursuit of their independence.
“It would amiss on my behalf if I failed to acknowledge the catalytic role of the Greek Orthodox Church through preserving our national identity, language and religion and aiding in every possible way the nation’s uprising against the Ottoman oppressor”, he said, paying special tribute to Greeks of the Diaspora, who initiated the founding of Filiki Eteria in 1814, that envisioned a truly independent homeland, free from the Ottoman occupation.
President Anastasiades also paid tribute to the small, but highly symbolic role of Cyprus, which at the time also suffered from the Ottoman oppression, in support of our Greek brothers.
“More than one thousand Greek Cypriots, heroically fought alongside the Greeks, whilst thousands strongly supported the cause, secretly providing much needed supplies and aid”, the President of the Republic said, describing the severe oppressive measures and the execution of many Greek Cypriots by the Ottomans, among them the religious leader of the Cypriot Orthodox Church, Archbishop Kyprianos.
In concluding, after he noted the influence of the ideals of the Greek Revolution to the efforts to reach a comprehensive and lasting settlement on the Cyprus problem, president Anastasiades stressed that “having as a legacy this exact vision of our Greek brothers, I wish to assure that we will continue our struggle so as to establish a truly modern and independent homeland, free from foreign dependencies.”
U.S. PRESIDENT BIDEN
In his recorded message, U.S. President Joe Biden said he was blessed by lifelong friendships in the Greek-American community. President Biden paid tribue to late Senator Paul Sarbanes, calling him a great leader, who has significantly defended in Greece in every way.
President Biden has sent his greetings to Archbishop Elpidophoros, whom he met in Summer 2019 in the Community of Southampton, while visiting with Fr. Alex Karloutsos.
“I found inspiration, and courage and principal leadership at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, which has long fought for social justice, going back to the days of standing with Martin Luther King during the civil rights movement, supporting Black Lives Matters protesters, demanding justice for George Floyd. The Greek-American community is defined by courage, decency, and honor”, President Biden said.
The full text of the remarks by the President of SYRIZA and former Prime Minister of Greece Alexis Tsipras is as follows:
Your Eminence Archbishop Elpidophoros of America, Exarch of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos,
Fellow Greeks and Philhellenes across America,
200 years after the Greek people declared “Freedom or Death”, I join you with a sense of honor to commemorate the great legacy of the struggle for Greek Independence.
As our countries, our families, our world, have been ravaged by a pandemic and economic crisis, the legacy of this struggle for independence is more important than ever.
The only way to face these great common challenges of our generation is through the great common – ecumenical as we Greeks would say- values that we share.
After all it is not our history that gives us strength as Greeks, but the values on which this history was built.
We honor the Greek Revolution which proved that freedom – eleftheria – is nothing, if not the belief of a people that they can define their own destiny.
United, despite all difficulties.
Determined, despite all setbacks.
We honor the Greek Revolution which inspired peoples across the world to reaffirm and fight for freedom, democracy and equality.
Over the past 200 years, our commitment to these values has helped Greece overcome the greatest challenges.
To become a strong European democracy and a regional pillar of peace, stability and development.
Today, based on the friendship between our peoples, Greece stands as a key strategic ally to the United States, expanding relations with old and new partners across the world.
As we look ahead, it is these values that must guide us.
In order to build a stronger Greece of sustainable development and a better, more just, post-pandemic world.
The contribution to this effort of the Greek Diaspora and our dynamic Greek-American community in particular, is as important today as ever.
And we all look forward to the opening of the Saint Nicholas Church at the rebuilt World Trade Center.
A strong message for the future.