Ten Ancient Greek Coins Returning to Greece from the US

WASHINGTON (ANA/ P. Kasfikis) Ten ancient coins looted from Greece are to find their way back home after they were returned to Greek diplomatic authorities by the Department of Homeland Security in a ceremony at the Greek consulate in San Francisco.

Five of the ancient coins tracked down had originally travelled to the opposite shore of the Atlantic via an internet company based in Munich. The recipient was a professional photographer based in San Francisco who later voluntarily handed over another five ancient coins he had obtained from the same company at an earlier date.

The failure to mention the origin of the coins but also their low price had intrigued Homeland Security Investigations Agent David Keller, who tried to track down exactly what they were and where they came from. His investigation showed that neither the sender nor the recipient were able to produce the necessary documents to make the transaction legal.

The San Francisco Customs and Border Protection Laboratory then sent the evidence collected to Athens, where it was examined by a department for antiquities law enforcement officer, Orfeas Sotiriou, in Attica. Based on his analysis, the coins had been minted on various Aegean islands and dated to about 600 B.C.

The coins were then returned on the basis of an agreement signed by Greece and the US in 2011 concerning cultural goods and fighting antiquities smuggling.

Among those at the ceremony for their retun was the Greek Ambassador in Washington Charis Lalakos, who carried out his first official visit to San Francisco and met with the California Governor Gavin Newsom and other local officials.

ICE Homeland Security Investigations returned looted Greek artifacts to rightful owner

SAN FRANCISCO – Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Deputy Special Agent in Charge Jerry Templet repatriated 10 Greek coins to the Government of Greece, Tuesday, during a reception at the San Francisco Greek Consulate.

“Homeland Security Investigations is the ‘investigative arm’ for the Department of Homeland Security, and we work closely with our international law enforcement partners to combat the illegal trafficking of cultural artifacts.”

The 10 coins were allegedly smuggled out of various Aegean islands such as the Island of Samos. The island of Samos is not covered by modern structures and has a lot of open, unprotected fields. These unexcavated archaeological sites are subject to the illegal use of metal detectors by collectors who remove artifacts, such as coins, for unlawful sale and profit.

“Today, we have [present some of] our good friends from Homeland Security Investigations of San Francisco, who closely worked with their counterparts in Athens for the last two year, to make possible the patriation of 10 Ancient Greek coins,” said San Francisco Consul General of Greece in San Francisco, Antonios Sgouropoulos.

Sgouropoulos hosted this reception to welcome Haris Lalacos, the Ambassador of Greece to the United States, during his first official visit to the Bay Area.

In late August 2016, HSI detained a FedEx package with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the FedEx facility in Memphis, TN. The shipment originated from a Munich-based, online coin dealer with previous violations for selling suspicious antiquities. This shipment contained five coins.

“HSI Special Agent David Keller of San Francisco and Hellenic Police Sgt. Orfeas Sotiriou of Athens, Greece, collaborated these past two plus years to intercept and authenticate these artifacts,” Templet said. “Their hard work resulted in this repatriation. I am happy to be a part of such a great event.”
According Sotiriou’s analysis of data collected by the Customs and Border Protection Laboratory in San Francisco, the coins were determined to be authentic Ancient Greek artifacts.

In September 2016, Keller interviewed the buyer of the intercepted package. During this interview, the buyer informed Keller that he made a purchase from the same seller a few months earlier for five other coins. Subsequently, the previously purchased coins were also evaluated and found to be Greek artifacts.

“The seller never provided any documentation showing the coins were acquired and sold legally,” Keller said. “The buyer cooperated with our investigation and ultimately surrendered all 10 coins to HSI to be forfeited and repatriated to the Government of Greece.”

Also an archeologist in Athens, Sotiriou reported that all 10 coins are estimated to be dated as early as 600 BCE and were minted in various locations throughout the Aegean Islands.

According to Greek Cultural Heritage Law, artifacts in the ground within Greece are the property of the Government of Greece and are not allowed to be removed for reasons other than Archaeological study. The lack of provenance documents and the low price of the coins were facts that supported the assessment that the coins were smuggled out of Greece.

In July 2011, The U.S. and Greece entered in to a Bilateral Agreement or Memorandum of Understanding with Greece to restrict the importation of carious cultural property from the Upper Paleolithic Period (approximately 2,000 B.C) through the 15th century A.D. This treaty, along with the U.S. “Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act” and Customs Laws, are the authorities used by Special Agent Keller to conduct this and other similar investigations.

On May 10, 2019, the Office of International Trade-Regulations & Rulings issued a decision to transfer the forfeited coins to HSI for the purpose of repatriation to the Government of Greece.

Netherlands Wins 2019 Eurovision Song Contest (Video)

TEL AVIV, Israel (AP) — The Latest on the Grand Final of the Eurovision Song Contest (all times local):

2:00 a.m.

The Netherlands is the winner of the 2019 Eurovision Song Contest.

Duncan Laurence’s doleful piano ballad “Arcade” was tapped as an early front-runner before Saturday’s Grand Final. But it had to rely on the fan vote to secure the country’s fifth win in the competition. Italy finished second, followed by Russia, Switzerland and Norway.

Some 200 million people around the world were expected to watch the annual campy contest with 26 nations battling to be crowned Europe’s best pop act.

Israel earned the right to host the show after Netta Barzilai carried off last year’s prize with her spunky pop anthem “Toy.”

The show of European unity brings together acts from 41 countries, including those with little connection to Europe, such as Australia.The final round’s winner will be influenced by TV viewers casting votes via text message.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Two Turkish-Cypriot Journalists Cleared Over Cartoon Insulting Erdogan

While journalists in Turkey face jail for writing negatively about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, two in the occupied territory of Cyprus were acquitted of charges of insulting him for having their party publish a cartoon showing a Greek statue urinating on his head.

A court threw out charges of defamation against Şener Levent and Ali Osman Tabak brought after the small-circulation daily Afrika published a cartoon depicting a Greek statue urinating on Erdoğan’s head.

“Our reaction is one of relief … this is clearly a good sign for press freedom,” Pauline Ades-Mevel of the Paris-based rights group Reporters Without Borders told The Guardian.
“You don’t convict journalists because of a cartoon,” she said. “If they had been sent to prison, it would have had a chilling effect on other journalists in northern Cyprus.”

Levent, the newspaper’s veteran editor, and Tabak, its chief reporter, had faced up to five years in prison if found guilty of accusations that included “inciting hatred against a foreign leader with the aim of disrupting peaceful relations between the two countries.”

While technically independent as a Republic only Turkey recognizes, the occupied land still relies heavily on military and financial aid from Turkey, which keeps a 35,000-strong standing army there, one of the reasons reunification talks broke down in 2017.

Levent said the verdict was a victory for the Turkish-Cypriot media while journalists in Turkey live with the threat of constant prosecution and fear under Erdogan, who wants to bring Turkey into the European Union despite muzzling freedom of the press.

“Erdoğan lost and we won,” he said after the trial result was announced to loud applause, said The Guardian. “Turkey cannot do here what it does in Turkey … We are Cypriots, citizens of the Republic of Cyprus and of the EU. We are not in Turkey here.”

Citing previous European Court of Human Rights rulings exonerating journalists of similar charges, Judge Cenkay Inan said he did not believe the cartoon “constitutes an insult.” It was first printed in an Athenian newspaper after Erdogan’s visit to Greece in December, 2017.
Afrika republished it under the caption, Through Greek Eyes. The judge ruled the newspaper was showing how Greeks felt about Erdogan.

In Turkey, almost 200 journalists have been jailed, most rounded up after a failed July, 2016 coup attempt against Erdogan who then purged civil society, the military, the courts and said he’d like to bring back the death penalty, which is forbdden in the EU.

Levent, a candidate in the May 26 European Union elections although Turkey is not a member, has taken to provoking Erdogan, calling him an “Islamo-fascist” whose goal is to fully occupy Cyprus through another invasion and bring in Turkish mainland settlers.

Last year a mob of ultra-nationalists stormed Afrika’s offices after being incited by Erdoğan “to give the necessary response,” after Levent criticized Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria, likening it to the country’s invasion of Cyprus.

The editor was almost lynched in an incident that later prompted thousands of Turkish-Cypriot protesters to take to the streets. Sami Özuslu, who heads the mini-state’s largest journalists’ association, told the paper the verdict would embolden local media outlets to keep on telling the truth.

“The court ruling was a good day for press freedom and freedom of expression,” Özuslu said. “Now journalists won’t feel they face any problem when they write their thoughts and that is very important for today, for tomorrow, for the future,” he added.

Headed for Crushing Defeat, Kammenos Defends ANEL’s Role

ATHENS – In political oblivion after pulling his tiny party as the junior partner in a coalition with the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, Independent Greeks (ANEL) leader and former defense minister Panos Kammenos insisted he had left a legacy of defending Greece.

Since leaving the government in opposition to Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ deal to give away the name of the ancient Greek province Macedonia to a newly-renamed North Macedonia, ANEL has fallen below the 3 percent threshold needed to get back into Parliament in general elections later this year.

The party also has no statistical chance of winning seats in the May 26 elections for the European Parliament or Greek municipalities but Kammenos, who, since leaving has taken repeated snipes at SYRIZA, said ANEL had played a key role in the government.

“Above all is the unity of the nation, and ANEL was able to safeguard it for four years,” Kammenos said during a visit to the nationalist party’s election campaign kiosk in Athens even as his party had crumbled around him with defections to SYRIZA.

“This must continue now that we have exited the bailout programs,” Kammenos said, referring to the Aug. 20, 2018 end of three international rescue packages of 326 billion euros ($364.06 billion.)

SYRIZA Sailing to Elections Defeat? The Economist Thinks So

With surveys showing Greek Prime Minister and Radical Left SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras is starting to cut hard into the lead of his major rival New Democracy ahead of the May 26 elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament, the noted news magazine The Economist thinks he may have too much baggage to make it.

Trying to recoup favor with voters – with general elections coming later this year – Tsipras, who plummeted after reneging on anti-austerity vows – has gone on a barrage of handouts and tax cuts, which has seen New Democracy’s lead cut in half.

But he’s struggling with issues that don’t have to do with the economy, which is showing signs of a recovery after more than nine years of bailouts and austerity, albeit with the country’s creditors saying the giveaways are threatening to undermine the rebound.

In an article entitled Alexis Tsipras Sails into Social Media Storm in Greece, the site noted the fury over reports that he took a vacation on a yacht in the summer of 2018, shortly after devastating wildfires outside Athens killed 102 people.

A documentary on SKAI TV, a station boycotted by the Leftists because it won’t support the government’s policies, said that SYRIZA tried to hide the death count and downplay a chaotic and confused response to the disaster.

The magazine said Tsipras is trying to play up his Leftist credentials again, as he did to win power, before he surrendered to the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM) in the summer of 2015 to get a third rescue package, this one for 86 billion euros ($96.04 billion.)

That came with more brutal measures he swore to reject but then agreed to implement while saying it wasn’t his fault, hammering workers, pensioners and the poor while letting escape the rich, the oligarchs he said would crush, tax cheats, his alleged ideological enemies, and politicians.

“In speeches, the prime minister makes a point of distancing the ruling Syriza party from the corrupt, high-living elite he blames for plunging the country into an unprecedented eight-year recession,” the news magazine said, not mentioning his yacht vacation and playing up to rich interests.

LEFT, RIGHT, LEFT

But while his party is riddled with anarchist and terrorist sympathizers and anti-establishment groups supporting furloughs for a jailed terrorist killer, SYRIZA has found itself the target of far-left protests that Tsipras caved in to the creditors.

That led the magazine to say that some aides worry he’s lost touch with voters and his base which had abandoned him in droves as he broke essentially all over the 40 points of his campaign platform ahead of the January, 2015 elections.

That includes reversing his anti-American and anti-NATO stance near and dear to the heart of the hard-core elements in SYRIZA as he wooed US support, which wants an expanded military presence in Greece.

He also sent troops to help NATO in foreign wars, helping an organization was once a hated enemy of SYRIZA but making a deal to give away the name of the ancient Greek province of Macedonia to a newly-renamed North Macedonia, opening the way for its entry into the defense alliance.

The report noted Tsipras took a casual campaign tour on Crete with Alternate Health Minister Pavlos Polakis, a Cretan, backing him over a furor in which the minister derided a wheelchair-bound New Democracy candidate for the European Parliament.

“Tsipras shrugged off the incident, calling Mr. Polakis ‘a blunt-spoken islander,,” giving free rein to the minister to keep attacking SYRIZA enemies at will, with no fear of consequences despite conduct rivals said was despicable and shameless.

When New Democracy leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis called for a vote of censure in Parliament, Tsipras turned it into a vote of confidence for him, knowing his minority government – which has only 145 seats in the 300-member body – would win.

That was due to a handful of former rivals and alleged Independents changing their alleged principles to back him, one of whom was rewarded with the position of Tourism Minister despite having no qualifications for the job.

But the key part of Tsipras’ strategy is the handouts and tax cuts that are far less than the tax hikes and benefit cuts he imposed in a bid to make voters forget what he did to them, and it has been working, if not enough to catch New Democracy, but cut the Conservatives margin of victory for the general elections.

Tsipras is trying to wiggle out of other austerity measures to which he agreed with the Troika, including his agreement to put taxes on previously exempt lower-income individuals and families without putting a 75 percent tax on the rich he said he would.

“Voters are unfazed by Mr. Tsipras’ choice of holiday companions, it seems, if he comes up with tax breaks and generous handout,” said The Economist, as he hopes it’s full sail ahead.

New Democracy Elections Lead Over SYRIZA Slip-Sliding Away

ATHENS – Rebounding from a free-fall plunge in polls after four years of reneging on anti-austerity promises, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ strategy of handouts has cut deeply into the lead of the major rival New Democracy ahead of May 26 elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament.

A poll by MRB published in Ta Nea on Oct. 18 gave New Democracy a lead of 6.5 percent over the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA, 30-23.5 percent.

The Conservatives had held leads as high as 14.1 percent, with general elections coming later this year but SYRIZA made inroads after Tsipras said he would cut taxes he raised and give bonuses to pensioners whose benefits he had cut.

Voters seemed to have bought it and ignored derision foisted by a key SYRIZA minister on a wheelchair-bound New Democracy candidate for the EU elections and with Tsipras even riding out claims in a TV documentary his government hid the death toll and chaotic response to July, 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 102 people.

The center-left Movement for Change (KINAL) coalition led by veterans of the defunct PASOK Socialists, who faded from dominance to obscurity after backing austerity measures antithetical to their alleged principles, were third at 6.6 percent.

With a threshold of 3 percent needed to win seats in the EU Parliament in Brussels and Strasbourg, France, the neo-nazi Golden Dawn was fourth at 6.3 percent even though its hierarchy and dozens of members are in the fourth year of a trial on charges of running a criminal gang.

The only other party meeting the threshold for election was the KKE Communists in their usual position, fifth, at 5.9 percent, where it has been for decades without making any gains from the populace.

Despite the small margin between the parties, some 63.4 percent said they expect New Democracy to win the elections, more than four years after being unseated by SYRIZA and Tsipras, who promised to reverse austerity but imposed more. Only 17 percent said that the Leftists would pull an unlikely upset after shedding voters.

That was done in the summer of 2015, seven months after being elected, as he sought and accepted a third bailout, of 86 billion euros ($96.04 billion), from the Troika of the European Union-European Central Bank-European Stability Mechanism (EU-ECB-ESM.)

Some 56.9 percent said they had a negative view of the SYRIZA government to 36.3 percent who felt favorable.

Travel Plans Fall-off Worries Greece Over Tourism Season

Enjoying a record run of several years of tourism, a warning by the Thomas Cook agency that travel plans are lessening has Greeek officials concerned that there could be a drop in visitors and the revenues they bring, which had helped bring a slow economic recovery.

EasyJet also said it’s seeing lesser demand this year, adding to the worries that despite being a haven for Hollywood celebrities and the super-wealthy, adding to new luxury resorts being built, that Greece could be affected this year.

The British-based Thomas Cook is one of the world’s largest travel agencies and its estimation came with the United Kingdom due to leave the European Union in October, prospects which have already made many residents there reconsider where they will travel for the summer.

Major agencies, facing fierce competition from their hotel bookings from short-term rental sites such as Airbnb and Booking.com are turning their attention to that sector as well and there are also structural problems in the tour operators market said Kathimerini.

Thomas Cook’s stock fell 90 percent in value last year in the face of the changing methods people use to travel, doing their own bookings online, and setting back tour packages, with analysts expecting that hotels that travel agencies work with wanting faster payments.

In Greece Thomas Cook cooperates with a network of 47 hotels and owns four but the Greek newspaper said that the agency expects to book fewer visitors this year despite the country’s growing allure.

The group said it’s optimistic about Greece, despite an overall warning about a profit decline for the second half of 2019 and has just acquired a hotel on Kos and said it’s mulling more purchases.

EasyJet, based in London and owned by Greek-Cypriot businessman Stelios Haji-Ioannou, announced pre-tax losses of 313 million euros ($349.54 million) for the period October, 2018-March, 2019, the lowest period for tourism.

The company said it also expects fewer profits per seat sold this year “as consumers are discouraged from the uncertainty regarding Brexit and the financial weakness in Europe,” referring to the UK’s departure from the EU this year.

Greek Prosecutor Backs Terrorist’s Jail Furlough, High Court Will Decide

ATHENS – Greece’s high court will decide May 21 whether terrorist assassin Dimitris Koufodinas, on a hunger strike, should get a seventh vacation from jail after the head of the Supreme Court prosecutor’s office overturned a ruling barring him from being let out again.

Koufodinas stopped eating May 2 to protest not being allowed to have a few days off again, this time from a low-security work farm where he was transferred from a high-security prison. He said he doesn’t like his hospital bed either because it’s next to the morgue.

Under Greek law, revised in 2015, prisoners who’ve served more than 15 years are eligible for furloughs although it also stipulates they must be repentant – he is defiant – and those convicted of the type of crimes for which he was convicted can not get furloughs.

Despite that, high court prosecutor Xeni Dimitriou said he is eligible even though he’s serving 11 life sentences for his role as a leader of the disbanded Nov. 17 terror group that killed 23 people, including five Americans attached to the US Embassy over the years.

Koufodinas remains hospitalized in a Volos-area hospital’s Intensive Care Unit and vowed he would keep his hunger strike protest going “to the end,” and as anarchists led by the notorious Rouvikonas group have gone on waves of violent protests backing him.

Major opposition New Democracy (ND) leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis, whose brother-in-law, journalist and politician Pavlos Bakoyiannis, was gunned down by Nov. 17 in 1989, struck out at the prosecutor.

Speaking from Crete, where he was on a campaign tour ahead of the May 26 European Parliament election, Mitsotakis said “the rule of law and democracy cannot be threatened or blackmailed, especially by an unrepentant serial killer and the 30 thugs that support him. I am absolutely confident that the institutions and justice system will meet this challenge,” if he comes to power in general elections later this year.

New Democracy added that, “no serious democracy is blackmailed by terrorists or their admirers,” while reiterating its promise to restore the high-security prison regime for terrorists that the SYRIZA government abolished.

Justice Minister Michalis Kalogirou, from the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA which was accused of having terrorist and anarchist sympathizers in its midst and condoning violence to help Koufodinas, denounced her critics.

US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt said Koufodinas’ supporters demanding he get a furlough from jail were vandals and hooligans.

With the anarchist group Rouvikonas going on violent sprees to back the former Nov. 17 terror group chief, Pyatt’s home near the US Embassy was splashed with paint despite being heavily guarded by Greek police.

He said his tweet denouncing the violence and supporters of Koufodinas – whom he had told a newspaper was “a murderer, not Robin Hood – “probably got more attention than anything else I’ve done on Twitter in three years in Greece.”

“Nobody agrees with these people,” he said in a statement although Rouvikonas has widespread support among anti-establishment groups who have been rampaging almost at will under SYRIZA with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras’ critics saying he condoned it to reestablish Leftist credentials after bowing to the country’s creditors to impose austerity.

“This action is not a peaceful protest. It’s vandalism. It’s hooliganism, plain and simple,” said Pyatt, who also expressed gratitude for the government and police’s support and response to the vandalism. “We will work with Greek law enforcement in order to see hopefully that the individuals responsible are punished to the maximum extent under Greek law,” he said.

Charged Over Deadly Fires, SYRIZA Governor Puts Them in Political Ad (Video)

Facing charges she was negligent in responding to the July, 23, 2018 wildfires that killed 102 people, Attica Regional Governor Rena Dourou, from the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA party, featured the flames in the backdrop of a re-election campaign video advertisement.

Dourou was shown speaking against a backdrop of images from the devastating wildfires that nearly destroyed the seaside village of Mati.

She has fallen in popularity ahead of the May 26 elections for Greek municipalities and the European Parliament with surveys showing the major opposition New Democracy leading in those races as well as for general elections later this year.

Using the deaths for political advantage was a new low even for SYRIZA, New Democracy responded in a statement denouncing Dourou, saying she was shameless.

“The provocative video by Ms Dourou simply confirms how inappropriate, cynical and dangerous the people who handled the national tragedy in Mati are,” it said in a statement.
“Even today they are not aware of their responsibilities, insulting the memory of our 102 fellow citizens. Shame,” it added. She said she was not responsible over the fires.

After the fires, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said more than 1100 unlawful buildings would be razed but there haven’t been any reports that has happened and a group of residents there recently protested the inaction during a demonstration in Athens.

After being charged for breach of duty among other counts in the deaths Dourou was one of a group of officials blamed for catastrophic 2017 floods in the town of Mandra that killed 25.

A months-long 66-page prosecutor’s investigation into the causes of the floods in the western Attica municipality that also injured 13 and caused huge damage to homes and infrastructure, has pointed to negligence by local and regional authorities, noting that no flood prevention works had been carried out to avert such a disaster, said media reports.

Dourou is one of the most prominent politicians who is a member of the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA and had deflected any blame for anything before the reports over the floods and fires accused her of negligence.

After geological experts had said the floods were preventable if the government hadn’t allowed unlawful construction blocking water run-off the report said Dourou’s office was lax, citing a lack of any registration of illegally built structures and no marking of the area’s creek beds.

The investigation reveals other details over liability assigned to regional and municipal officials, as well as to the state-run forestry bureaus, the same pattern of blame assigned to government authorities over the fires showing no one was in charge, there was chaos and confusion and critics blaming appointments of unqualified political friends to offices.

One of the major charges was that no anti-flooding works were undertaken by the regional government’s services, although similar flooding occurred in 2014-2015 and as the government had promised to rectify the problem of unlawful building.

The report said Dourou’s office and other municipal officials failed to conduct any anti-flood works despite technical studies and approved funding to support such a project, with the 2014-15 floods also cited.

It noted the failures to act contributed to the “massive destruction”brought by uncontrolled construction in dried-out river beds, the inadequacy of technical works and the “complete nonexistence” of flood prevention works in mountain areas, the report said.

Particular blame was directed at the Municipality of Mandra, which the report accused of “criminal neglect and violations” including the unlicensed construction of a sports stadium on the bed of the Soures stream.

The First Interview of Archbishop Elpidophoros of America with TNH

BOSTON – The unanimously elected Archbishop Elpidophoros of America gave his first interview to The National Herald, in which he spoke about the Omogenia (the Greek American Community), the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Saint Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church and National Shrine, the good-ordering of financial matters, the Greek language and heritage, and his vision for the Archdiocese and the Greek-American Community.

The Archbishop emphasized regarding the Community, among other things, “For me, you are my pride, my praise, my spiritual children, my precious coworkers, my fellow travelers for the sake of the glory of God, and my supports in strengthening the crown of Orthodoxy, our Ecumenical Patriarchate.”

The complete text of the interview is as follows:

TNH: Your Eminence, how do you feel about your election to the Archiepiscopal Throne of America?

AE: The truth is that the main feeling I was expecting after my election was one of relief, because all of us had grown weary of the long period of impatient waiting that preceded the solution. I was confident that I would feel relief whether the Holy and Sacred Synod elected me or another brother among the other hierarchs of the Ecumenical Throne. However, to my surprise, in the end my main emotion was one of a feeling of responsibility. More specifically, the burden of responsibility. This feeling expressed itself in two ways: with praise to God and with gratitude to the Patriarch and the Synod for their unanimously expressed trust.

TNH: When you entered the Patriarchal Court in 1994 as a young deacon, did you ever imagine that you might become Archbishop of America?

AE: Of course not. Not even in my wildest dreams, my dear Mr. Kalmoukos. The only thing that connected my ordination to the diaconate with America were the words the Patriarch used when he named me Elpidophoros. He said the following at that time: when our Patriarch was enthroned on November 2, 1991, Archbishop Iakovos of blessed memory wished him to be a Patriarch “free from danger (Akyndinos), a “well-spring” (Pegasios), “unhindered” (anembodistos), “bountiful” (afthonios), and a “bringer of hope” (Elpidophoros), punning on the names of the Saints whose feasts were celebrated on the date of his Enthronement, November 2. The Patriarch said to me, “Since that time, I had wanted to give this name to a clergyman.”

Thus, since the first day of my ministry in the Patriarchal Court, I felt gratitude for the Patriarch who gave me this name and that my name was connected to Archbishop Iakovos of blessed memory. I admired America from a young age, dreaming of traveling there, and was excited from the first day when I did visit, as a post-graduate student in 1992, to baptize Elias Papas, the son of my childhood friend Fr. Christos, who serves the community of Holy Ascension in Fairview, NJ. Since that time, I fell in love with America and have visited many times.

TNH: What do you believe about the Community in America? What are we to you? What are your thoughts?

AE: The Greek-American community certainly sits at the top of the successful Hellenes of the Diaspora. For me however, as a Christian, a theologian, and a cleric, the value of this Community is measured by the love that it has for the Church, its dedication to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and the sacrifices it makes to preserve its tradition, language, culture, and faith. Now that our Patriarch has entrusted me with your pastoral care, you are my pride, my praise, my spiritual children, my precious co-workers, my fellow travelers toward the glory of God, and my support in strengthening the crown of Orthodoxy, our Ecumenical Patriarchate.

TNH: Do you know the issues of Church life in America? And what are some of the priorities you will try to take on in the near future?

AE: I’m not going to hide behind my finger. Our Church in America has serious problems. All these problems stem from one common cause: the loss of trust of the people for the Archdiocese’s administrative ability. No one believes that there was any foul play. But also no one denies that bad choices have been made. This is not a happy circumstance, but at least it preserves the honor of the Archdiocese because the people serving preserved their fear of God. We are all sensitive with regard to the Church’s finances and rightly so, because these funds are sacred.

They the hard-earned money that the people of God offer, money made with labor and sweat. We must therefore respect these offerings and manage them in the fear of God, grateful to our people who have entrusted their offerings to us for the benefit of the Church. Therefore, the first thing we need to do is to restore our credibility to the outside world. To this end, it will help very much if we recommence soon the rebuilding of the Church of St. Nicholas at Ground Zero. It is a matter of prestige for us.

After that we need to put our own house in order. To elevate again our beloved Theological School in Boston, and Hellenic College, which are in the heart of the most significant educational center of the Nation. We live in a country where these issues can be resolved and there are mechanisms and systems that can mitigate our organizational and administrative and managerial weaknesses. We need professionals. They exist. And many of them, even the most successful ones, belong to the flock of our Archdiocese. And they love the Church. We will invite them in and ask for their help. I am sure that they will not deprive us of their talents.

TNH: What will you bring to America when you come for your enthronement?

AE: There is a definitive element to the answer I am going to give to your question. I am coming from Constantinople, from our Ecumenical Patriarchate, from our Mother Church. This, therefore, is what I am bringing chiefly and foremost: the blessing of our Patriarch, His All-Holiness Bartholomew, the greatest Ecumenical Patriarch of the last 200 years, the Patriarch that has held steady the helm of Orthodoxy for the last 28 years.

I am also bringing the blessings and prayers of the Hierarchy of the Ecumenical Throne, the members of the Holy and Sacred Synod. I am also bringing the hopes of the Greek Orthodox People of Constantinople, of the islands of Imvros and of Tenedos: so that their brothers in America will think of them, care about them, and support them. That they will feel the hurt when they see the door of the Theological School of Halki is closed, and that they will not tolerate the fact that the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the Crown of Orthodoxy, does not have the open access that it deserves and befits it.

TNH: Where are going to live, since the home of Iakovos of blessed memory was sold?

AE: Whoever has visited me either at the Phanar, when I was a clergyman of the Patriarchal Court, or at Halki, where I lived in the monastery with the fathers, has seen that I usually live and work out of one room, which contains my bed, my desk, and my computer. I don’t know what the world thinks of us, but we live very frugally and simply in Constantinople.

I am telling you all this to explain to you that the last thing that occupies my mind right now is where I am going to live. I am sure that in the two buildings the Archdiocese has in Manhattan, there will be a room where I can sleep. Besides, there is so much work to do in these first years that I won’t have time to spare commuting. Personally, I would be ashamed to burden the budget of the Archdiocese with an Archiepiscopal residence, during a time where there are such economic difficulties. When, with God’s help, we overcome the problems and pay off our debts, then we will see.

To tell you the truth, through all the years of my life as a clergyman, I am used to living in communal settings, either at the Phanar, or Halki, or the Holy Trinity Monastery, and I will consider doing something similar in New York.

TNH: What is your relationship with the Hierarchs and priests here going to be like?

AE: Our Hierarchs here in the United States are all very valued and venerable clergymen, who love the Church and possess the fear of God. I will ask them to work together with me in a brotherly spirit and to join forces for our great common purpose: The elevation of Orthodoxy and the restoration of our Archdiocese. Especially, I will ask their help in finding ways to approach the young generations of Orthodox, who may not be as close to our Church as we would desire. And this could cause serious problems in the future, and will require a “changing of the guard” and a continuation of service for our Communities and Institutions.

TNH: What will be the relationship of the Archdiocese to the Ecumenical Patriarchate?

AE: The Archdiocese of America is the pride of the Ecumenical Patriarchate. It is the praise of the Mother Church. It is her hope for the future. I will remind you as well of what I said in the so-called Lesser Message, following my election as Archbishop of America: “If the vine brings forth fruit, it is because it is connected to the vineyard.”

Is it possible for a branch to be proud of producing plentiful fruit and not remember that this is only because it is an inalienable part of a tree, which draws food and water from its deep roots? This is exactly our relationship to our Patriarchate. Thus, it is an unbreakable, organic, existential, and vital relationship. We are nourished by the spirituality and tradition of the Ecumenical Patriarchate and share our fruits with gratitude.

TNH: What stance do you plan to take on national issues?

AE: National issues are also among the fruits we must share with Hellenism around the world. I mean that we owe it to our nation that we put the capabilities we have, such as the Greek-American organizations that work hard in the service of the promotion and strengthening of our positions on national issues and causes, but to do this in a responsible and effective way. We have nothing to gain from sensationalism that yields no result. Therefore, I’m giving you a straight answer in saying that I will follow the tradition of all my predecessors, enlisting all my strength, with the cooperation of all key people of the Greek-American community in the USA, so that we may allow no one to undermine Hellenism, wherever Greeks may live.

TNH: What do you believe about the issue of Greek Paideia (education) and Greek identity, in general?

AE: The issue of Greek identity, both as language and cultural conscience, has been discussed much in America, and has suffered and been slandered so much, that we need a peaceful, calm, and realistic approach. No matter what we do, we cannot have the type of Greek identity here that there is in Greece and Cyprus. It is also not right to distort our approach to Greek identity, or to disdain the Greek language.

There is a middle way: not to risk our integration in American society, but also not to deny our tradition and heritage. We can stand in the pluralistic and free American society with pride and dignity, bearers of an international, ecumenical, and magnificent culture, the Hellenic culture, which has been subject of admiration and continues to be so by all peoples and all other cultures, friends and enemies.

Besides, even from a Church point of view, our Greek language is the one in which the fundamental monuments of Christianity were written: The New Testament, the Divine Liturgy, the Psalms, the works of the great Fathers of the Church. We are not going to impose a “golden ratio” on this issue. Instead, we will discover it together by means of a constructive dialogue in which the views of all sides will be freely expressed.