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Vice President Biden addresses Clergy Laity Banquet expressing support for the Ecumenical Patriarchate, Cyprus and Greece

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Jul 10, 2014

PHILADELPHIAVice President Joe Biden addressed the delegates of the 42nd Biennial Clergy Laity Congress of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, last night, at the Grand Banquet, held in the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown Hotel.

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Following the singing of the National Anthems, by Serena Benedetti Pantazopoulos and the invocation by Archbishop Demetrios, the two Congress co-chairs Michael Karloutsos and Anastasia Michals offered welcoming greetings.

The Mistress of Ceremonies, Andrea Mitchell, NBC’s News Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, introduced a video presentation on the rebuilding of new Saint Nicholas Church and National Shrine at World Trade Center in New York.

His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, Primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, introduced the Vice President as a person radiating hope, freedom, joy and compassion, and someone who has been for many years a bold defender of freedom and human rights especially for Grece, Cyprus and the Ecumenical Patriarchate.

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The Vice President thanked the Archbishop, whom he said he considers a friend, from whom he has taken advise during their many encounters. Vice President Biden related his long ties and involvement with the Greek American Orthodox Community of the United States and his relationship with Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew. He made several references to his 2011 visit, the first of a seating Vice President, to the Ecumenical Patriarchate in the Phanar. He expressed his high esteem for His All Holiness, saying he thinks of him as a Christ-like figure, who has no pretense and he is always consistent with what he says and believes. Additionally, Vice President Biden said that the Greek Orthodox Church and Community has played a major role in the spiritual and moral leadership of America in the World.

The Vice President spoke of three issues, for which he said he is optimistic. First the relationship of the United States and Greece, second, the defense of Religious Freedom, the Ecumenical and the issue of Halki, and third, the continued occupation of Cyprus by Turkish troops.

Speaking about the relationship of the United States and Greece, the Vice President said that it has evolved through many levels and over a long time. He said that it began with the sharing of philosophic thought and ideals, which influenced and helped mold the thoughts of the Founding Fathers and the formation of our government. The relationship, he added, continues with the sharing of the rich Greek culture though the vibrant Greek American Community. On the political, nation-to-nation dimension, he mentioned many examples of cooperation between the two countries that have many times worked, and continue to work shoulder to shoulder. He expressed the strong support of the U.S. to Greece during the difficult economic euro zone crisis, recognizing the suffering of the Greek people under the program of economic austerity. The Vice President said that Greece “is turning the corner,” job losses and the free fall of the economy have stopped; and growth and job development are beginning to come back. Greece is open for business, said Biden, and America is ready to be part of its recovery.

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On his second major point, Vice President Biden, expressed his unequivocal support for the right of the Greek Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate to control its destiny, free of the influence of any government. He said that the right to decide who the Patriarch is, is not the business of any state to determine. He also said that the right to reopen Halki Seminary is basic, and the protection of the holy places and the heritage sites in Turkey is absolutely necessary.

 

 

For the third issue of Cyprus, the Vice President said he is cautiously optimistic, expressing his great disappointment that after 40 years there are still Turkish troops on Cyprus. He also expressed his continued desire and will to reach a fare, just and legitimate settlement; and end the occupation of Cyprus. He said, he made it unmistakably clear, during his recent visit in Cyprus, that the United States has, continues to and will continue to recognize only one legitimate government on the island, the Cypriot government; And that there is nothing negotiable about that. The Vice President listed three reasons for the optimistic outlook on the Cyprus problem. First, he said that Cyprus has become a genuinely strategic partner of the United States and is an essential link and partner in the war on terrorism. Second, he refered to the energy transformation of the area and the exciting discoveries of natural gas and oil off shore in Cyprus and Israel and said that under international law Cyprus owns access to these valuable fields and therefore is positioned to play a leadership role. As a third reason, the Vice President explained that there is a growing awareness in Turkey that the status quo is not in its benefit, economically or politically.

Following the dinner greetings were offered by Aphrodite Skeadas, the National Philoptochos president; Ambassador Vasileios Philippou, consul general of Cyprus in New York; Christos Panagopoulos ambassador of Greece to the United States; Archbishop Charles J. Chaput of  the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and the patriarchal representative to the Congress Metropolitan Stefanos Kallioupolis and Madytos.

The host hierarch of the 42nd Congress, Metropolitan Evangelos of New Jersey offered remarks about the deliberations of the Clergy Laity Congress that had just concluded. He emphasized, that rebuilding Saint Nicholas Church is a national effort and the national Church, the faithful of the Archdiocese as a whole, should support this effort.

In his response, Archbishop Demetrios, reflected on the deliberations of the four-day Biennial Congress and said it was a festival of speeches, new ideas and initiatives, a festival of language and content, a Congress of joy. The evening ended with a closing prayer by Metropolitan Evangelos.

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Contact: Press Office - Stavros Papagermanos, tel.: (212) 570-3530

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