Spyridon pledges to work for closer Greek-American
THE DOORS of power swung open yesterday for visiting Archbishop Spyridon,
who has been received by the Greek government with the type of honours
normally accorded a head of state.
President Costis Stephanopoulos, Premier Costas Simitis, parliament
speaker Apostolos Kaklamanis and Education and Religion Minister Gerasimos
Arsenis all met with Spyridon yesterday, underlining in a variety of ways
the heavy burden placed on the Greek Orthodox Church in America as the
single most important unifying factor for the country's almost two million
Greek Orthodox Christians.
Though there were no substantive statements made immediately after the
meetings with Stephanopoulos and Simitis, Spyridon later underlined at
a press briefing that he was prepared to intensify his efforts to promote
Greek national issues. "I assured the president and prime minister that
the Greek community is not only well disposed towards but also intent upon
contributing to the promotion of these issues," he said, adding that this
task was already underway, with his efforts to build "closer ties with
the American political leadership".
"The archdiocese and the Greek community will make all possible efforts
to exhaust all existing means to effect progress on these issues," Spyridon
Spyridon has been strongly criticised for not being as vocal a proponent
as his predecessor, Iakovos, who during his 37-year tenure developed close
ties with a series of presidents and top political leaders in the US and
developed a high political profile on such key national issues as the Cyprus
But Spyridon is apparently intent upon proving his critics wrong. "We
could speak of a new type of relationship between the Greek community [in
the US] and the Greek state. A whole new spectrum of relations is developing,
beginning with issues of collaboration and ending with efforts to contribute
to the solution of our national problems," said Spyridon in the clearest
statement yet that he intends to fulfil Greece's expectation that he be
a vigorous both religious and ethnic leader.
That message seems to have been well taken by parliament speaker Apostolos
Kaklamanis, who praised Spyridon for having "proven his ability to bring
together his flock with love and tenderness", adding that he was "absolutely
satisfied" with Spyridon's efforts to preserve "the unity of the Greek
community" and to "promote our national issues in the US".
No doubt Spyridon will be getting a crash course in these issues during
his one-week stay in Athens, as Deputy Foreign Minister George Papandreou
suggested after hosting a luncheon for the archbishop yesterday. "We want
to brief His Eminence on Greece's priorities on national issues: the European
Union, the Mediterranean and the Balkans," said Papandreou.