Secretary of State John Kerry was expected to visit the Ecumenical Patriarchate yesterday.
Washington, DC.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden hosted the Greek Orthodox Archbishop of America His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios and Greek-American community leaders at the White House on the occasion of Greek Independence Day. This was the 27th consecutive year that such a White House meeting has occurred. Greek government was represented by the country’s Ambassador in Washington Christos Panagopoulos and the Republic of Cyprus by Charge-d-affaires Olympia Neocleous.
The event was also attended by members of Congress John Sarbanes, Carolyn Maloney, Nita Lowey, Elliot Engel and other government officials of Greek descent and prominent members of the Greek-American community. Among the participants was also actor Zach Galifianakis,
Greek-Americans (less than one half of one percent of the U.S. population) and Irish-Americans (the second largest nationality in America) are the only two ethnic groups to have an annual event with the President of the United States.
Prior to the event, the President held a twenty minute long private meeting with Archbishop Demetrios. Most of the discussion was about the failed effort to pass the Gun legislation from the U.S. Senate and the events in Boston. Archbishop Demetrios raised once more the issue of the religious freedom Turkey and the opening of the Seminary in Halki.
Secretary of State John Kerry who was in Istanbul yesterday for a meeting on Syria, was expected to raise the issue of Halki seminary, in his discussion with his Turkish counterpart, Ahmet Davutoglu, according a senior US Official.
“And we have been strongly encouraging the Turkish Government to reopen Halki seminary. It would be an important step forward in terms of signaling Turkey’s accord for openness, religious freedom, and tolerance”, the Senior U.S. official told journalist, on route to Turkey.
The US Secretary of State was also expected to meet with the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew at the Fanar.
“And clearly just the Secretary’s presence there signals our support for the important issue of reopening Halki seminary and our commitment to religious freedom”, the Senior US official added.
OBAMA – BIDEN
Addressing his 350 guests at the annual White House reception in honor of the 192nd anniversary of the March 25 Greek national Independence Day, which marks the start of the Greek revolution against Ottoman rule on March 25, 1821, Obama noted that the United States and Greece have always stood side-by-side, and stressed the US’ solidarity with Greece for the restructuring of its economy.
Speaking warmly of Greece and the Greek heritage, he said that each year America celebrates Greek Independence Day and the enhancement of the ties between the birthplace of democracy and the oldest democracy in the world, adding that “we reflect on the ancient Greek principles that inspired our nation’s founders to consolidate the authorities of the government in the hands of the people”.
He said that the people of the US and Greece have learned the democracy flourishes “when we respect our differences, insist on the principles that unite us, and proceed with a common purpose”.
In his own greeting to the event, Vice-President Biden noted Greece and liberty are identical meanings”, and noted the achievements of the Greek-American community, lauding the contribution of the Greeks of the US to the enhancement of Greek-US relations.
Vice President Biden praised the Greek American Community for supporting him faithfully over the years.
Archbishop Demetrios, in turn, noted that “we are at the side of those who fight to strengthen freedom. And we pray that we will all one day see the prevalence of peace, justice and the power of love”.
“For one more time, we, the Greek-American Orthodox Community, have the great honor today to be at the White House, in order to commemorate the Greek Independence Day. Unlike past years, however, today our hearts are heavy, our minds numb, and our joy is overshadowed by grief and sorrow for the innocent victims and their families from Monday’s terrorist attacks in Boston.
At this solemn moment, allow me to convey the heartfelt condolences and prayerful support of His All Holiness Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew who shares his grief and distress with the American people.
The people of Boston demonstrated to each other and to the world what freedom, patriotism, and heroism truly mean. The same resolve and patriotism stirred the hearts and minds of the Greeks who in 1821 fought heroically for their independence after suffering 400 years of foreign occupation in order to regain their freedom and establish the free state of Greece. Almost two centuries ago, the heroic Greek people in their fight shared the same yearning for freedom and democracy, just like the forefathers of our Nation. Often the result of such courageous and bold acts comes with an enormous price. A price, however, which stems from the strong desire for universal values such as the pursuit of happiness, human rights, dignity, religious freedom and peaceful coexistence.
Everyone knows that only a few hours ago, our President and the First Lady joined the grieving City of Boston. His leadership and presence were a much-welcome solace and comfort in their hour of need. Now we are welcomed at the White House in honor of the struggle for independence of the Greek People in 1821.
In light of this week’s tragedy, and the continuing struggle for security in our Nation today, we offer our unfailing prayers, our steadfast support, and our pledge to give our utmost as faithful citizens of this great country. To borrow the words of the President: “We must pick ourselves up, dust off and continue”.
We stand shoulder to shoulder in the work of preserving and fostering freedom. And we pray that we may all see the day when peace, justice, and the power of love rule supreme in our world, and tears be shed no more for the innocent.
May God bless our President and his noble family, the beloved people of Boston, and may God bless the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave”.